Ten students are heading south to spend their fall break immersed in Zion National Park.
The students will devote three days to volunteering in the desert as part of Alternative Fall Break, a program headed by the Center for Community Engaged Learning.
Participants will tackle various projects to restore and preserve the natural landscape of Zion. Their work will include removing graffiti that scars the red rock walls of slot canyons and maintaining park trails that are worn out from visitors.
“There are some people that just don’t appreciate what this Earth has given us,” said Sierra Bodily, the Alternative Breaks chair of marketing and recruitment. “This trip will help to restore the natural beauty of Zion and can also help reconnect students with the idea of respecting the Earth.”
This will be Bodily’s second time participating in an alternative break, and she said she likes spending time with students who want to make a difference. “I love being around people that are so willing to help others,” she said.
Bodily said the projects done on these trips leave a lasting impression on students. “It really lights a spark in people,” she said, “and it makes you want to serve more.”
Zion National Park is among the top 10 most visited national parks in the nation, attracting more than 3.6 million visitors last year.
Hannah Smith, the youth programming director for the Service Team, said this makes volunteer work in the park especially important.
“We are going to take care of the land and help preserve it for a lot of other people to look at and appreciate,” Smith said. “Hopefully it’s a good example for others and inspires them, as well.”
Smith is familiar with the environmental preservation work done on the alternative breaks, as she went on an alternative break to Hawaii in the spring. But before that, she said she rarely focused on environmental work.
“It’s cool that the trips are mainly focused on the environment because that has kind of helped me broaden my service experience, which I’m always looking to do,” Smith said. “It’s kind of opened my perspective on life, which I really appreciate.”
From Oct. 20-22, participants will camp at Zion River Resort, just outside of Zion National Park. In between volunteer work, the group will have the opportunity to go horseback riding and hiking.
Marissa Questereit was a participant on an alternative break to Portland, Oregon last year, and this year she’s a trip leader. She said her experience changed the way she viewed the world.
Questereit encouraged anyone interested in alternative breaks to apply for future trips. Applications for next year’s Alterative Spring Break to New York City and San Francisco open Oct. 31.
“It helped me think more positive and be more grateful for what I have,” Questereit said. “When you’re serving others, you’re being selfless, and you can figure out who you are and what you really want.”