Buena Vista University

An Eye-Opening Experience for BVU Students in Arizona

Apr. 19, 2013

Nearly 30 Buena Vista University students participated in three AWOL (Alternative Week of Off-site Learning) trips during spring break, enabling them to volunteer their time and service to a variety of people and programs.

Several students headed to Leupp, Ariz., where they camped and volunteered at the North Leupp Family Farm (NLFF) located on the southwest side of the Navajo Nation, the largest Indian reservation in the U.S. At the NLFF, the group assisted with farm maintenance and gardening projects including weeding, controlled burning, and planting in the farm's greenhouse. The students also assisted with solar panel installations at the homes of two families, which was the first time such a project had been done by an AWOL group.

Becka Neary-DeLaPorte, director of student activities and leadership development at BVU and co-advisor of the trip, hopes the trip had a lasting impact on participants. "By immersing ourselves into the Navajo community, we truly got an experience that cannot be taught in a classroom," she says. "I think the experience guided deeper reflection for students on their paths toward implementing change. It was apparent at the end of the trip that students were able to better articulate and understand their place in the world."

"The most eye-opening aspect of the trip was having the opportunity to live and mimic the exact conditions that the Navajo people live in everyday of their lives," says Alexa Guessford, a senior marketing major from Johnston. "We take for granted many things in our daily lives such as electricity and running water. We don't think about where our power comes from when we flip a switch. It's important to understand these issues because they are affecting people in our country, not just in third-world countries."

Other students who participated in this year's "Cultural Immersion and Environment" AWOL trip included Sheila Narh, a senior biology major from Ghana; Nereyda Manriquez, a sophomore accounting major from Storm Lake; Bonnie Keller, a freshman biology and psychology double major from Sioux City; Alyssa Askeland, a freshman English major from Atlantic; Emily Phipps, a freshman biology major from Monroe; Amanda Steffes, a freshman exercise science – human performance major from Audubon; Brady Stier, a junior sports management major from Austin, Minn.; and Andrew Schanbacher, a junior biology major from Newhall.

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