BY HANNAH KESTLY
The TRIPS (Turning Responsibility into Powerful Service) Program is an alternative break service program that offers SNC students the opportunity to put their values, convictions and religious beliefs into action through service.
This year the TRIPS Program is sending groups of SNC students on 16 trips to different locations throughout the academic year.
The first trip to take place was the Environmental Issues TRIP. Seven students (Malorie Imhoff ’15, Connor Romenesko ’15, Maddie Cramer ’15, Amanda Janse-Vreeling ’15, Erin Baur ’15, Sam Erickson ’16 and Sarah Cocco ’17) traveled to Watersmeet, Mich. from Oct. 2-5 to learn about environmental issues and how they relate to the nation’s park systems.
This trip was the first official environmental trip to take place, as the one originally scheduled for last year in 2013 was canceled due to a government shut down with the National Parks.
“I’m so excited that this trip was able to happen,” said Sara Hafenbreadl ’15, the Trip Leader Trainer. “I think that environmental issues are extremely important and we started planning this trip in the summer to make sure that everything went smoothly, which it did.”
In talking about the mission of the trip, “The primary goal of our trip was to think more deeply about issues rooted in the environment and facilitate discussions about the state of our forests, food and water systems and the social implications of environmental decisions including access to food, water and other resources,” said Malorie Imhoff, one of the co-leaders for the trip.
While on the trip, the Environmental Trip participants tent-camped at Lac Vieux Desert campground. It was cold and rained almost everyday throughout the duration of the trip but, “[w]e knew it was going to be bad weather, so we were prepared for that,” said Imhoff.
On the first day of the trip the participants volunteered in Ottawa National Forest at Black River Harbor and worked with naturalists as well a botanist to remove invasive species from the area.
“We were removing a species called ‘glossy buckthorn’ and had to identify, cut down and put herbicide on the plants,” said Imhoff. “We felt like we made a big difference in the forest but still knew that we had a lot of work to do.”
For the next three days of the trip the group worked in the Sylvania Wilderness with a group of volunteers from Madison called the Friends of Sylvania. The participants hiked about 10 miles per day and worked to clear and make trails in the wilderness.
In talking about the impacts of the environmental trip and what he learned, co-leader Connor Romenesko said, “I had only worked on environmental issues from a public policy and advocacy perspective so being on the ground was very valuable. I have a lot more appreciation for those who are promoting access to the environment daily. Just from conversations about conservation and responsible consumption, I am much more aware of my impact and what I can do to reduce it.”
Reflection was a large part of the success of the Environmental Issues trip as well, as the participants were reflecting throughout the day as they worked and afterwards at night.
“Reflection was a time where we were able to talk about deeper issues, especially environmental issues and learning more about how we understand different issues and topics,” said Imhoff.
A favorite memory from the trip was “[j]ust being able to know the participants. We had a very diverse group of students who all connected with environmental issues in different ways. Being able to get to know them and learn from them while doing service and enjoying the outdoors was fantastic,” said Romenesko.
“Environmental issues are important to me because of the fact that they are so multi-dimensional. They take shape in so many forms and have such a big impact,” ended Romenesko.