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Why Every College Student Should Go On An Alternative Spring Break Trip

Using spring break as an opportunity to serve our world.

Why Every College Student Should Go On An Alternative Spring Break Trip
Cameryn Sharkey

This past spring break, I went on my university's Solar Spring Break Alternative Service Break trip to San Diego, California. The trip was in partnership with Grid Alternatives, a non-profit that installs solar panels on homes in low-income neighborhoods. My Solar Spring Break group was partnered with Grid Alternatives' San Diego office in which we were assigned to install solar panels on two homes on the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla & Cupeño Indian Reservation.

This experience was by far one of the greatest experiences of my life. I flew for the first time, visited the west coast for the first time, installed solar panels for the first time, saw and helped construct an earth dome with Indigenous Regeneration for the first time. Along with all the first times and sightseeing, this trip was made great through the knowledge and friends I have gained. I have learned so much about the world around me and myself through my participation in this trip and it will hold a lasting place in my heart.

Cameryn Sharkey

During our stay on the reservation, the tribe hosted a tribal night for us in which we were introduced to some of the tribe elders. Also on this night, we learned about different plants, games, and traditions that are important to a nearby tribe from a guest who visited to present for us. From the visitors' presentation, I realized how different their beliefs are, yet how similar their customs are to my own. Several of the games we were introduced to is a version of ones that I have grown up playing or am familiar with from my own culture (i.e. versions of hockey, ball-and-cup, dice).

Members of the tribe that greeted us and worked with us were all very kind and tried their best to make sure we had all that we needed during the week. The generosity of the tribe made the experience feel more personal as we gained some opportunities to talk with them and we invited them to play some of the card games that we brought with us. I am thankful for the tribe letting us stay with them and for sharing the beauty of their land and culture with us.

The last day of our trip was spent in downtown San Diego learning about environmental policy, California's move toward a more sustainable future, and how the company Gensler impacts the future of sustainable buildings. We meet with a couple of members from the San Diego Green Building Council and they described San Diego's policy that all new residential and commercial buildings having to gain LEED certified and that many existing buildings are being renovated to also obtain this certification.

California is far ahead of most states in the sustainability movement and San Diego is working toward the goal of new homes, office buildings, etc. to be net zero in energy creation/consumption. Reaching net zero means that the home or building can generate enough electricity needed for twelve months of energy consumption. Driving environmental changes is something I am passionate about, specifically the incorporation of solar energy into this which is why, as a Grand Challenge Scholar at my university, I have chosen to focus on making it more economical and why I wanted to go on this trip.

The knowledge I have gained from the things described above inspires me to want to become more involved with such efforts once I graduate college, either here in North Carolina or wherever I end up living. I have shared this information about California's sustainability push in hopes that it will make them realize how necessary and attainable change can be and see if any of them share my passion.

During trip reflections, we discussed themes such as humanity, privilege, environmental justice, limitations and visions, service, etc. With each new theme came a new bundle of ideas and discussion points for our group. This trip has exposed me to new things that have grown my understanding of the privilege I have as compared to others and the things that I seemingly take for granted that many people live without.

While driving through downtown San Diego, we saw large populations of homeless people, almost every street we went down had at least one homeless person sitting on the sidewalk or off to the side of the road. It pained me to see so many people on the streets. Having an apartment at school, a home with my parents, and a bed to sleep in every night is something I typically don't think twice about. Our trip may not have been focused on this societal issue, but I have learned to appreciate these things a lot more.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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