Front from left: Kelsey Lange, Alyssa Donnelly, Amanda Miley, Luke Hastie. Back from left: Jasmine Sarceno, Nahomi Estrada, Kristina Grossman.

April 5, 2017

Nine Buena Vista University students participated in an AWOL (Alternative Week of Off-site Learning) trip during spring break, enabling them to volunteer their time and service with a focus on social, economic, environmental and racial justice issues in New Orleans.

The BVU participants worked with the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal (CELSJR), an organization that acts as a liaison for marginalized communities. Throughout the week, CELSJR put the group in touch with a variety of community organizations. First, participants tended to fields at Grow Dat Youth Farm and helped spread the word about the effects that the proposed Industrial Canal lock expansion could have on community members alongside the organization, A Community Voice.

“The AWOL experience really allows you to come face-to-face with problems that many communities go through. We are able to learn about issues and communities, and then work alongside people toward a common goal.”

Amanda Miley

The BVU participants also volunteered at the Pray the Word, Say the Word youth camp and helped prep reading materials to be shipped to the incarcerated at Louisiana Books 2 Prisoners.

“My favorite part was meeting so many people and hearing their stories,” said student site leader, Amanda Miley, a sophomore biology and chemistry double major from Independence, Mo. “I like to look at service as working with people and learning from each other. People who partake in service give a lot, but they are also forever transformed.”

Others students who participated in the environmental and racial justice issues AWOL trip include Luke Hastie, a senior criminology/criminal justice major from Indianola, Jasmin Sarceno Cortez, a senior environmental science major from Perry; Nahomi Estrada Mata, a senior business major from Storm Lake; Kelsey Lange, a senior distributive major from Hopkinton; Kristina Grossman, a senior distributive major from Glidden; and Alyssa Donnelly, a sophomore strategic public relations major from Council Bluffs.

Advisors for this AWOL experience were Jamii Claiborne, associate professor of digital media, and Lori Berglund, assistant director of career and personal development at BVU.