Alternative Spring Break

ECU students on spring break helped build a living shoreline at Trinity Center at Pine Knoll Shores. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)


Students make a difference on alternative spring break

March 9, 2017

By Sophronia Knott
ECU News Services

East Carolina University students on spring break took a trip to the beach, but instead of soaking up rays, helped build a living shoreline to protect habitat. 

Twelve ECU students traveled to Carteret County to work with the North Carolina Coastal Federation at Trinity Center at Pine Knoll Shores.

Students also cleaned and painted cabins at Camp Albemarle, where they bunked this week. They helped clean the beach and camp, provided maintenance and built rain water gardens with a local elementary school.

"The most rewarding part was to be able to assist in creating a living shoreline," said Ashley Shepard, a sophomore from Raleigh. "They originally started with 4,250 bags of oysters and to be able to help them create the shoreline was such an accomplishment. However, moving all of the bags was a challenge, and it required a lot of strength and a positive mindset throughout each day."

Living shorelines like the one the students made with recycled oyster shells help stabilize water banks, protect water quality from run-off and create and maintain habitats for aquatic life.

Shepard said she wanted to participate because "service is a part of me and who I am. It gives me a genuine feeling of happiness and I really appreciate being able to help others and put a smile on their faces." 

ECU students Taylor Easter, left, and Ashley Shepard work at Pine Knoll Shores with an artificial shoreline.

Student leader Hannah Crouse, a first-year graduate student, participated in the spring break service trip for the first time. "I wanted to challenge myself with new experiences," she said. "I wanted to build connections with other students, too. The most rewarding and challenging part of the trip was building a living shoreline, but I really enjoyed being able to work outside."

Freshman Diamanté Slye also went on the trip. "I did it to get a different experience and outlook on environmental justice. My favorite part was being able to explore the nature surrounding us, and the most rewarding part was building bonds with others and gaining knowledge," she said.

Lauren Howard, who is assistant director for leadership and civic engagement at ECU, was a staff leader for the Alternative Break Experience (ABE) trip this year.

"I'm extremely proud of the ECU students who chose to take their spring break and commit to learning and serving a community that caters to environmental justice. They are true active citizens," she said.

According to the website, "The ABE are learning opportunities that immerse ECU community members in diverse environments that address social, economic, political, environmental, spiritual and cultural issues through the exchange of ideas, personal reflection, critical thinking, and applications of academic concepts beyond the classroom."

Approximately 70 ECU students and staff took alternative spring break trips this year.

Janera Reid and Sylveonna Holmes visit cows used at the Simply Natural Creamery in Ayden during spring break on a Greenville 'staycation'.

In Greenville, ECU students stayed at Community Crossroads Center emergency homeless shelter, where they served meals and assisted in cleanup projects. They also tutored and mentored youth at Third Street Education Center, South Greenville Elementary School and helped with several community gardens in west Greenville. They also toured Simply Natural Creamery in nearby Ayden to learn more about dairy farming. 

Other ECU students traveled to Baltimore, Maryland to work on projects addressing poverty and homelessness; to Roanoke, Virginia for community health-related service projects; to Haysi, Virginia where students worked on masonry and landscaping projects; to Pilot Mountain and Boone, North Carolina, and Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia where students partnered with local, state and national parks on trails maintenance, camp and river cleanups; to Columbia, South Carolina to work with youth in the juvenile justice system; and Atlanta, Georgia, where students worked with the LGBT community and homeless youth. Also sophomore EC Scholars traveled to Washington, D.C., where they attended a presentation at the Pentagon hosted by ECU alumni and participated in a local service project.

Classes resume March 13.

Students, left to right, Nora Iwunze and Diamanté Slye carry oyster shells to extend the artificial shoreline at Trinity Center.

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