Students on last year’s excursion camped out in the Pahragarat Wildlife Refuge.
Students on last year’s excursion camped out in the Pahragarat Wildlife Refuge.

The phrase “spring break” evokes a vision of scantily clad men and women, loud music, and the beaches of tropical islands. But for outdoorsy types or students looking for adventure, an alternative spring break program provides a chance to explore and participate in community service projects.

The program is a joint effort between Friends of Nevada Wilderness, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the University of Nevada, Reno’s Alternative Break Club and seeks to provide environmental activities for college students. This year, students can choose an excursion with the Friends of Nevada Wilderness to help maintain the local ecology, or venture up to Oregon to put on a science week with Boys & Girls Club of America.

Participants on the Friends of Nevada Wilderness trip will focus on four projects over the course of the week: maintaining 410 feet of trail, restoring five miles of illegal roads, planting 80 Velvet Ash trees, and installing 100 feet of fence. The cost is $20, all of which goes toward food for the week, and the flier advertises the program as “cheaper than staying at home!” The Boys & Girls Club project costs $90.

“The projects are chosen based on what could possibly be good for students and what could possibly be good for the community,” says Lyndsey Bohall, business major and founder and president of UNR’s Alternative Break Club. Bohall is also a member of AmericCorps.

Bohall says that she had heard about other programs like this around the country, but Nevada didn’t offer one. The response has been positive, she says.

“It’s such a young program, so we’ve been trying to figure out how to market to students,” says Bohall. “But since the cost is low, students really like that. And they like the chance to put it on their resume or have fun doing an important project.”

The idea for a spring break that would help students could give back to the community was inspired by Bohall’s trip to Mexico, where she helped build houses.

“That was a life changing experience for me just to have a different experience, and to be able to help people,” Bohall. “That’s what we hope for these kinds of trips to be here.”

Last year was the first year of the program, and eight students camped out in Pahraganat National Wildlife Refuge. This year, the students who remain in the state will spend the week of March 18-24 camping at Corn Creek, and will have a chance to listen to speakers and collaborate on restoration projects. Bohall hopes that at least 20 students will be involved this year.

“I talked to the students who went last year, and when the people came back from the trip, they were so excited about it,” she says. “It’s a really cool experience. They found it very meaningful. We didn’t have something like this here in Nevada before, and it’s nice to see that students respond well to it.”

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