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Students Make a Difference on Spring Break

Students at Zion National Park

Maddie Martin, class of 2019 –

I came to Boise State as a transfer student after having a rough first year of college at two different universities. I wanted to meet as many people as I could when I got here, so I signed up for everything, including going on an Alternative Break to Zion National Park in Utah.

I signed up for the Alternative Break because I wanted to meet people, make friends, and get involved. But as spring break came closer, I was exhausted and overwhelmed from a tough semester, and I considered not going on the trip. All I wanted to do was sleep over spring break. But I knew that the Alternative Break wasn’t supposed to be about me or how I felt or what I wanted out of it. It was about doing service for others.

During the break, we worked to eradicate an invasive plant species, the Russian Olive, from the grounds of the park. They had huge thorns and were painful to touch. We had to cut them down so the natural and native plant life could grow. It was a lot of physical labor. We also did maintenance work, cleared some trails and hiked a lot. We were exhausted at the end of each day.

I made friendships with my teammates, and we immediately bonded. We are still friends now. Every night, after a long day of work, we’d eat “gourmet” food that you wouldn’t expect while camping in a national park — like grilled cheese and tomato soup. I found the connections and friends that I was hoping to find on the break.

I didn’t go to Zion thinking that my perspective on the world would change. I thought I’d make new friends and do some good. Before I went to Zion, I felt like I couldn’t really make much of an impact on the environment, and I didn’t really worry about it. I thought that since I don’t do that much, it can’t be that bad. While I was helping to eradicate the invasive plants at the park, I realized how important it was to protect the park and count it as sacred.

Now, I realize that even the smallest action has an impact and that you can’t excuse yourself because you don’t do “that much.” I’m more conscious of my actions now. I recycle, turn things off or unplug them in my room when I leave, walk on designated trails and paths when I hike and not create my own, and I carpool, bike, or walk where I need to go as much as I can.

These seem like small changes, but they are a step in the right direction.