Alternative spring break trip to Puerto Rico allows students to serve and learn

A group of people posing in front of sign reading, "CENTRO DE CONFERENCIAS YUQUIYU BIENVENIDOS."

Students and representatives from Penn State DuBois gather for a group photo during their time in Puerto Rico.

Credit: Penn State

DuBOIS, Pa. — For most, the term “spring break” conjures thoughts of beautiful weather, fun locations and a good time had by all. But for several students at Penn State DuBois, this year’s spring break had another reason they'll never forget it. They used their spring break to make an impact on the world.

Students from Penn State DuBois and Penn State Altoona recently put their spring break to good use through an alternative spring break trip to Puerto Rico. Ten students from Penn State DuBois made the trip to stay at the Community Collaborations International in Luquillo to take part in numerous service projects, while also learning about the many aspects of Puerto Rican culture.

Students who made the trip from Penn State DuBois included:

  • Melakai Forrest
  • Katy Fritz
  • Madison Gavlock
  • Abagail Kellogg-Long
  • Andrea Lecuyer
  • Savannah McCloskey-Reigh
  • Savannah Ross
  • Malachi Schaefer
  • Madison Sohnen
  • Justice Williams

During the trip, students helped with disaster relief projects, environmental restoration projects and community recovery efforts. Often working through difficult moments of hard, physical work, no one let any barriers bare them from completing the tasks they had at hand.

“These students stepped outside of their comfort zone during this trip,” said Holli Lashinsky, assistant director of admissions and accompanying staff member for the trip. “They conquered fears while being supported by other on our team. They encouraged and loved one another throughout the trip and learned so much about one another.”

Between two days of the trip, students planted more than 1,700 mango and dragonblood trees as part of restoration projects. They also had the opportunity to interact and play with school-aged children at the Boys and Girls Club of Puerto Rico. That was just the start for the students, however, as they also performed trail maintenance projects in the El Yunque National Rain Forest and worked at a community center, cleaning, raking and removing leaves, pressure washing pavement and buildings, removing and refreshing paint and weeding.

“Every student put their blood, sweat and tears into doing the best they possibly could to make a difference the entire week, “ Lashinsky said. “I was so impressed with their dedication and perseverance. There were moments when times got tough with the hard, physical work in the hot sun. But they never quit, nor did they complain.”

While the group worked hard much of the time they were in Puerto Rico, they also had the chance to have fun and learn all about Puerto Rico. The group visited Old San Juan and walked through many historical sites, including Castillo San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro. They also experienced Las Pailas Natural Waterslide, went on a kayak night tour in a bioluminescent lagoon in the Laguna Grande and went on a Catamaran and coral reef exploration trip that included offshore deep snorkeling. When time allowed, everyone had the chance to spend some time on the beach and to take part in a shopping trip at the Luquillo Kiosks.