The Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) Volunteer Program, co-managed by the National Park Service and the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, hosted their 2nd Annual Alternative Spring Break (ASB) weekend from Friday, March 16 to Sunday, March 18. The students paid a nominal fee to participate and in return received housing and meals.
On Friday, 30 college students arrived from six different local universities to learn about and give back to CVNP. The student demographics included non-traditional as well as international students. The weekend began with an overview of the projects and a welcoming introduction to CVNP. Speakers included National Park Service and the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park staff who shared their personal career path journeys to give the students insight into building a career in parks.
After an evening of teambuilding, the group rose for an optional ranger-led early morning hike. The theme of collaboration continued throughout Saturday when the new volunteers were able to join veteran volunteers from the Cuyahoga Valley Trails Councils (CVTC) and work side by side to share ideas, perspectives and wisdom.
On Saturday afternoon, students were given the option to rest and relax on campus or go and explore other areas of the park. Saturday concluded with a guided night hike and campfire. Per the urging of last year’s participants, there was a campfire offered both nights where participants enjoyed telling stories, eating s’mores and giving spontaneous dance lessons representing the various cultures of Romania, India, Asia, Cuba, and America.
On the last day of ASB, students appreciated a choice in service projects at either the native plant nursery or at the high tunnel hoop house at the CVEEC. Students rallied towards the end to finish their projects building six raised beds, expanding green house space, and planting seedlings. The student’s drive to complete the projects was impressive to both staff and regular volunteers. During the closing reflection, students shared an appreciation for this unique experience and shared their enthusiasm and passion for service. Many expressed their desire to return next year during spring break!