IUP students get productive over spring break

Stefanie Johndrow (freshman, journalism) paints during an Alternative Spring Break trip. (Contributed photo)

After eight long weeks of classes, exams and homework, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania student members of the Alternative Spring Break Club hit the road for Soddy-Daisy, Tenn., and Barnet, Vt.

Rather than spending their week relaxing in luxurious hotels or cozy cabins, the members of ASB journeyed to these cities to volunteer.

In Soddy-Daisy, home of the Cumberland Trail State Park, the group stayed at the Dogwood Lodge, which is owned by the Cumberland Trail Conference.

IUP’s ASB Club has been volunteering for the Cumberland Trail Conference for 10 years. Their volunteer work involved long hours of hiking, trail maintenance and construction.

This year, IUP was the only school volunteering in Soddy-Daisy during the week of March 16.

Ross Newcome (senior, math/physics) has been on four ASB trips.

“It definitely helped with the group cohesion,” he said. “The group was a lot closer this year than they have been in any of my previous years.”

The group was required to leave the camp around 8 a.m. and drive 45 minutes to the trail.

After a hard day at work, they left the trail for the day around 3 p.m. to head back to Soddy-Daisy. As a reward for their hard work on the trail, the ASB Club members in Soddy-Daisy decided to explore nearby caves on Wednesday, their day off, according to Kristen Shafer (senior, chemistry/pre-med), who has been on two ASB trips.

“This year, we went spelunking,” she said. “We all got suited up and then crawled around in a musty cave for four hours. It was great.”

Only six students traveled to the other ASB location, a small number compared to the previous six years IUP’s ASB has been going to Karmê Chöling, a meditation center located in the hills of Vermont.

“The first day we were there, we actually received meditation instruction and learned more about the culture of Shambhala,” ASB President Gretchen Heine (senior, Spanish history) said. “And then, the other five days we were there, we worked in different departments of the center.”

These departments included the kitchen, housekeeping and facility maintenance.

“Primarily, there are two things that play here,” Caleb Finegan, the founder and faculty adviser of ASB, said. “On the one hand, we are going out and directly helping people on projects in need. But the other idea of this club is the education one gets as a result of volunteering.

Students aren’t likely to forget their trip, according to Finegan.

“They are taking away a life experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives,” Finegan said.

ASB goes on multiple trips every year and is always looking for new members.

According to Finegan, the club plans to continue going to Tennessee and Vermont in addition to planning a trip to Nicaragua.

“The health and prosperity of ASB is completely dependent on student involvement and interest,” Heine said. “I think it’s important that more people know about this so more people can participate, because it’s a really worthwhile experience that represents IUP in a good light.”