Category Archives: LSU Campus Life

GEAUX & Give Back

jolieJolie is a first-year graduate student at Louisiana State University pursuing a Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration. She currently works as a Graduate Assistant for the President’s Millennial Scholars Program within the Office of Diversity. Before becoming a Tiger, Jolie studied Psychology and Leadership at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. As an Undergraduate student, she was involved in: Orientation, the President’s Leadership Program, Greek Life, Alternative Fall & Spring Break Service Trips, and graduated with service distinction within the youth development track.

In regards to service Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once stated, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “what are you doing for others?” I initially knew upon beginning my undergraduate career that service was something of high priority on my list of things I wanted to get involved in. But if you don’t exactly have the track record of completing service in the past, don’t quite know where to get started, or don’t think service is for you, fear not! I’m here today to offer my advice on getting involved in service or service learning as a college student.

  1. Step out of your comfort zone: If service is not something you have a lot of experience with or something you’re a little nervous to jump into, my advice is to get like Nike and just do it! More than likely you’re already challenging yourself by beginning this new season of life, why not use this transition as a chance to go out and try something that can make a positive impact on your community?
  2. Narrowing down your options: Okay, so we’ve decided we’re going to give this whole service thing a shot, now what? There are SO many organizations, people, and places that have plenty of volunteer work available or are in need of an extra hand. How do you know where to start? Well I would say begin by identifying personal interests. I know before I just said to step out of your comfort zone, but that doesn’t mean enter the panic zone. For instance, I am not an outdoorsy-type gal (though I try hard to be by wearing Chacos or telling myself I want to go hiking, ha! Yeah right..) Well if I choose a service site related to nature or the outdoors, what good will I be as a volunteer if I pass out when I see a snake, spider, or alligator? None.A good place to start narrowing down service site interests would be through LSU’s Campus Life office. Here is a link to their website. There you will find more information about what LSU has to offer service wise on campus!
  3. Make a commitment, y’all: Service is like a lot of things; you get out of it what you put into it. If you aren’t getting involved in something you really care about, show up sporadically to serve, or aren’t fully present in your time there, you as well as your service site will not get the best out of your experiences. Talk with your service site supervisor to agree on a schedule that works best for both of you and hold yourself accountable! I know how hard it can be finding time with a college student schedule, but remember that time management is key.jolie-2
  4. Check yourself: One important aspect of service or service learning is reflection.  Taking the time to step back and reflect in whatever way best suits you is important to really understand the bigger picture of your work. At times it can be discouraging knowing there is so much to be done that you might feel as if you’re making little to no impact. During these times write in a journal, look up quotes, talk it out with someone else, or check out this list of reflection activities in order to have a better idea of what your service means, the impact it’s making on the service site as well as on yourself, and any lessons you’re learning along the way.
  5. What kind of ships never sink? Some of my best friends I still have to this day I met on alternative spring or fall break service trips. Having the opportunity to put myself out there, meet people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, and be vulnerable during group reflection allowed my new friendships to be deeper and more intentional. I went into these experiences not really knowing other students or staff I was with but always left feeling like they were family (as cliché as that may sound it’s true!) There’s something about living in a cabin for a week with people you have just met and no access to wifi or cable that just sort of brings you all together! In all seriousness, getting involved with service based trips or committed service sites is a great way to meet new people in both the LSU and greater Baton Rouge community. (The answer was friendships. Friendships never sink!) 

Being a First Generation Student

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DaMika Woodard will be serving as the POL for the College of Art and Design. She is a Senior from DeRidder, Louisiana. She is majoring in Kinesiology with a concentration in Pre-Physical Therapy. She is involved in LSU Ambassadors, STRIPES, and Association of Pre-Physical Therapy Students. Her favorite spot on campus is Middleton Library. 

Being a first generation student is a great accomplishment that comes with a lot of pride, and a lot of pressure. I was proud to be the first person in my family to go to a four year university, but I also felt pressured to succeed. Statistically, the odds were not in my favor. It was reported that first generation students are the least likely to graduate from four year universities; I did not want that to be my story. Growing up, I watched my mom bounce from job to job to provide for my siblings and I. My mother always told me things such as: “nothing is ever going to be given to you, you have to work for it. The world is yours, you just have to go and get it!” She constantly stressed the importance of education to us and made sure that we excelled academically. Thanks to her consistency, I graduated from DeRidder High School in 2013 in the top 15 percent of my class, and didn’t stop there! In the Fall of 2013, I began my journey as an LSU Tiger, which was a bittersweet transition for my mother and I. We were excited for this new chapter of my life, but also nervous; this was not only my first taste of college, but hers as well.

My first semester was challenging; not only academically, but in my personal life as well. I had trouble networking with others and keeping my parents up to date on information and events. In addition to those problems, I did not know how to properly study, manage my time, or how to handle my own finances. While trying to juggle it all, I came to the realization that I needed extra help; I could not do this alone. Thankfully, LSU has a service called Student Support Services. At the SSS, their mission is to work directly with first generation students from their freshman orientation to their graduation.

Damika PictureThey have services that teach the students about money management,studying styles, as well as time management. They also offer weekly tutoring sessions and peer mentors, who are first generation students, too. This made things easier because I was surrounded by people who understood me and could give me the extra help that I knew I needed. There are many times that I felt overwhelmed, but my on-campus support system encouraged me to keep going. Now, I am set to graduate in December of 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology. In the words of my mother, “The world is yours, you just have to go and get it.”
 

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Freshman Survival Guide: Changing Majors

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Chandler Wall will be serving as the POL for Music and Dramatic Arts and the College of Agriculture. He is a Junior from Dallas, Texas. He is a Human Resources and Education major with a concentration in Leadership. He is involved with LSU Ambassadors and his favorite spot on campus is Mike’s Habitat. 

Changing your major is quite common to the average college student. I personally have changed my major a total of 4 times now and almost every time I had to change my senior college. I would think that this next one would be the major I graduate with, but each time I would realize that it wasn’t for me.  After I realized that my third major change wasn’t what I hoped it would be, I decided that it was time for me to change again. Except this time was different, this time I felt lost. This time I wasn’t changing my major because I found something I felt I liked better.

Chandler BlogI didn’t know what I wanted anymore, or what the best fit for me was. I just knew that I wasn’t happy in that major anymore. It was a terrifying feeling. I had just finished my sophomore year of college, now half way through my college career and I no longer knew what I wanted to do. I went and talked to my friends about what I should do next and they all said the same thing, “Pay a visit to the Olinde Career Center.” I had heard about it in the past but had never been there myself. I didn’t realize that I walked by it almost everyday in the Student Union. I wasn’t sure if it would be able to solve all my problems, but I knew that it was definitely worth a try.

When the new school year was starting I walked in and set up an appointment with a career counselor. She sat me down and we talked for a long while until she had a grasp on my situation. From there we started from scratch, we looked at many different majors offered by each college at LSU. She could tell that our conversation wasn’t getting me any closer to figuring out what I wanted to do. She then proposed that I take on online test known as the Strong Test. This test would help to tell me what kind of work style I had, what jobs would really suit me, which jobs wouldn’t, it even told me whaChandler Blog 3t majors I would work well in. So I went and took the test and I would meet back with her once the results came in.

About a week later, I went to meet her again to look at my results. I was surprised to see my test results were a stack of papers half an inch thick. They were telling me things about myself that I never realized and options that I had never even considered. We talked until I could narrow it down to three majors. Then I went and spoke to each senior college to weigh my options. Eventually I choose to go with Human Resources and Education. Words couldn’t describe the feeling of relief I had now that I had a major and a plan again. Sometimes people realize that they actual don’t want to major in what they came to college to study and that is okay. It’s better to realize this early during your undergrad, instead of a week before graduation or even after. The LSU Olinde Career Center is there for this specific purpose and it should definitely be utilized, because it definitely can’t hurt.

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Getting Involved

Charlie POL pciCharlie Loupe will be serving as the POL for the College of Science and the School of Coast and Environment. He is a Junior from Slidell, Louisiana. He is involved in LSU Ambassadors and Beta Theta Pi. His favorite spot on campus is the Law School front steps over looking the Bell Tower and Tiger Stadium.

Getting involved on campus is very important in your student’s college career. Most parents tell their student they have to be in the library from morning until night studying so they can do the best that they possibly can. While it is great to be dedicated to your school work and make school the number one priority, your student needs something else in their life that allows them to get away from school for a second. I know that it sounds scary for your child to not think about school constantly, but I have learned that it’s healthy to get involved in college for several reasons.

Unfortunately, as your student progresses through college they will be stressed about a certain number of things. Through experience I have learned that when I am only preoccupied with one thing I tend to over think the situations I get in to, whether it’s tests, quizzes, or homework, and worry about them. In my first semester I knew no one at LSU, even though I am from Louisiana. I cried every now and then, calling my parents to tell them how scared I was. My mom always comforted me and said to go out there and meet other students so I could feel more comfortable at LSU. She was extremely persistent in making sure I went to get involved on campus. So the beginning weeks of college were rough for me until I decided to get involved.

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When I was attempting to decide which organization I should join I was lost. I searched everywhere looking for something that would suit me. I was constantly reminded of how awesome the LSU Ambassadors were and how much of a close-knit group they were; especially by my mother from her orientation experience. So, I decided to give it a shot even though I was not very fond of the idea of getting involved. I was terrified when I started the process of applying and trying out for Ambassadors. As I went through the selection process and interviews I met, what are now, the greatest friends I have ever had. After being selected to be an LSU Ambassador I was so excited because I finally found my place at LSU and could also call LSU my home away from home.

As an LSU Ambassador, whenever I served the community or those who were guests at LSU I felt so full of joy and happiness, which relieved most of my stress about schoolwork. Also, after making several friends within Ambassadors I felt more comfortable at LSU to the point where I could be more successful in my classes. This was proven true when I finished my first and second semester with a 4.0 GPA. It required me to work a little hard
than I had to, but the hard work showed me how to be dedicated to something you love.

charlie 3  Understanding that getting involved is just as important as your schoolwork is a difficult concept for some to grasp, but trust me it is extremely important. Personally, I find it imperative that students get involved in any way they can in order to be more successful at LSU. It does not have to happen your first semester if it makes you feel that uncomfortable, but a large part of college is stepping far out of your comfort zone and growing as a person. So please tell your students to not be afraid to feel uncomfortable and find their place on campus. It is the perfect formula for being successful at LSU and being able to proudly say, “I am an LSU Tiger”.

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So Long, Farewell, to You My Friend!

Graduation Close Up

Meet Meagan Johnson, a Senior majoring in Mass Communication with a concentration in Broadcast Journalism. She is also minoring in History and Political Science and is from Hackberry, Louisiana. Meagan is involved in LSU Ambassadors, Collegiate 4-H, University Baptist Church and served as a Parent Orientation Leader this past summer.

Louisiana State University has become more than just a school for me. It is a place I call home and a place that has given me more than I could ever give in return. With my last finals week at LSU coming to an end, I have begun looking back on my time here. I can see all of the opportunities LSU has brought into my life from life-long friends, impacting professors, the opportunity to study abroad, life changing organizations and memories of it all to last a life time. It is really hard to believe that my time at LSU is coming to an end, but I am looking forward to the last experience I get to have at LSU with many of my closest friends dressed in caps and gowns.

In many ways, it is surreal to me that I will actually be getting a diploma next week. I have dreamed of this day for many years and now that it is here I have mixed feeling about it. I am excited that all of my stressing, studying, late nights and prayers are about to pay off as I officially earn my degree. However, I will miss all of the memories I made here and the people that have made my time at LSU so special. I am a very lucky girl to have had so many great experiences here and I do not want it to end just yet.

I cannot express how grateful I am to everyone that has helped me through this experience. I would not be graduating or attending law school in the fall without the constant support and guidance. Getting to have this last experience with my friends that started with me in 2012 is the perfect way to end our journey at LSU. We can look back on this experience with a smile and look ahead to our adventures to come!

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Why STRIPES?

IMG_3286Bio: English major, Junior, from Marshall, Texas. Involved in LSU Ambassadors, served as a STRIPES small group leader for 2 years, currently serving on executive staff

STRIPES bio: extended orientation program focusing on history and traditions, spirit, and making students feel more at home and have a more personal or intimate connection with campus and with other future tigers. It stands for Student Tigers Rallying Interacting and Promoting Education and Service.

Take it from someone who heard about STRIPES and said “Ew. That sounds lame.” STRIPES is worth your time. Though I was never a participant at STRIPES, this program has shaped me and changed me more than I can express in 500 words or less. However, this isn’t about me, is it? It’s about you. And how STRIPES can change your life like it changed mine.

S is for spirit.

I don’t necessarily mean cheer camp or fired up spirit. While this program is fun and energetic, it instills a sense of pride for LSU that doesn’t have to be loud and noisy. Whether you’re more introverted or extroverted, there are parts of the program that can show you how sweet it can be to be a tiger.

Just an example, all participants get a little card with the lyrics to the LSU alma mater, and line by line, we sing it together. What a resource. I was mumbling those lyrics for a solid year and a half after football games, and knowing that it said “worth” and not “birth” would have been handy.

T is for tradition.

Did you know that LSU is one of the only universities with a land grant, a sea grant, and a space grant? Did you know that we have the Indian Mounds on campus, a landmark older than the Egyptian pyramids? Did you know that Death Valley started our as a residence hall and somehow was magically converted a football stadium by Governor Huey P. Long?

LSU’s history is full of wild, interesting tidbits, making it a unique university with tons of interesting fun facts. And while I might be a little partial, I think ours are more interesting than any other school in the SEC – two words for you Bama, GEAUX and TIGERS.

But I digress. All of these interesting tidbits are things that I learned from the STRIPES program.

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R is for respect.

There are 30,000 students on this campus and they all come from different walks of life. Aspects of the program focus on getting students to see from the perspectives of others, and to unite the student body. No matter our gender, racial identity, sexuality, political party, or economic class, we’re all tigers. That’s something we can’t forget when starting a new chapter.

I have seen STRIPES give students the pen they needed to keep writing that chapter. Students can leave with a respect not only for their campus, but for the 30,000 beautiful individuals that call it home.

I is for intelligence.

STRIPES works with LSU’s Center for Academic Success and the Olinde Career Center to give students resources to help them succeed for their first semester and beyond. One of my favorites is the Learning Style Preference Assessment, where students are given strategies that are individualized to help them learn to the best to their own ability. Also, students get to see the faces of the workers at those offices, opening doors for them to be unafraid to ask for help.

P is for people.

This is my favorite letter because the people at STRIPES are some of the programs greatest assets. STRIPES has over 60 qualified student leaders that come from every corner of campus. These student leaders take on the role of mentorship for participants, for the program and beyond.

Staff aside, students are put into small groups that go through the program together.   There is something special about watching groups go from painful small talk to camaraderie in four short days. I have no idea how it happens, but somehow I have found every small group I have ever had laughing while eating breakfast without student leaders  having to drive the conversation.

squad being cute

E is for eats.

Okay, honestly maybe this is my favorite letter. STRIPES is catered by some of Baton Rouge’s best restaurants and caterers – they believe and invest in the program and I thank them from the bottom of my heart and stomach. One new part of the program – GEAUXchella – is a Baton Rouge appreciation festival that will bring in restaurants from the Baton Rouge area to show students that Baton Rouge has cool things for students off of campus as well as on campus.

S is for stories.

Before my freshman year of college, I though STRIPES was lame. Let’s blame that on me being uncomfortable at LSU. Stripes showed me that whether LSU was my first choice (which it wasn’t) or at the bottom of my back-ups (which it was), there was something I could find on campus that would not only make me successful on campus, but make me feel like I belonged in the midst of 30,000 terrifying strangers. While this was comforting as a sophomore, it would have been a real life-saver as a freshman.

Thus ends my plea. As a group leader, I have seen this program do amazing things for students. And it’s my firm belief that it can do that for anyone. As a small group leader, I have met so many people and learned their stories, and those stories have pushed me, inspired me, and given me so much confidence that I am in the right place.

If you’re on the fence, give it a try. You might surprise yourself.

 

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Homecoming 2015

11953298_10152918380441330_533209100083436720_oAs we celebrated Homecoming at LSU, the Homecoming Committee hosted a week worth of festivities for the LSU community to revel in their purple and gold pride. This year’s theme was “Let the Good Times Roar,” which LSU did from the start of the week through the Tigers win in Death Valley. To start the week off, the student union was decorated with banners created by various student organization that were entered in a banner competition. Purple and gold adorned each one, along with references to Mike the Tiger, Tiger Stadium, and even specific players. The residential communities on campus also joined in on the fun by decorating their lobbies to create a more prideful space for their residents. They were not the only ones decorating, however, departments across campus were welcome to participate in a door decorating competition, which allowed for the faculty and staff to also show their love for LSU. Having the LSU community – students, staff, and faculty – involved from the start of the week creating an atmosphere that boosted the Homecoming tradition really set the tone for all of the Homecoming festivities. On Monday of Homecoming week, the Residential Hall Association hosted an event entitled “SplatterBeat” in the Parade Ground, creating a very fun and colorful experience for those students who attended. On Tuesday, CANapalooza began its blitz build, where students could volunteer to recreate Tiger Stadium utilizing canned food items that had been donated from the LSU community, which were then donated to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank and the LSU Food Pantry. By the end of the week, 13,837 pounds of canned items to the Food Bank and 1,079 pounds of canned items to the LSU Food Pantry. The completed Tiger Stadium was showcased on the Parade Ground for all to admire on game day. On Wednesday, the Homecoming Committee hosted its 2nd Annual Field Day on the Parade Ground, which featured a student DJ, free treats for students, and interactive games including corn hole, ladder ball, an inflatable obstacle course, and many more. On Thursday, the Parade Ground was lively once again in support of the Homecoming Pep Rally and Block Party. The Pep Rally featured a welcoming from President F. King Alexander, the LSU Tiger Band, the LSU Golden Girls, the LSU Tiger Girls, and the Cheerleaders. Several athletic groups stopped by to join in on the fun and wish LSU a happy Homecoming. Also, the official 2015 Homecoming Court was announced and introduced to the LSU community. The night ended with a Block Party in the Parade Ground, allowing students to dance the night away. On Friday, the Student Activities Board hosted the Homecoming Concert featuring three student artists and the headliner, Tinashe. Saturday morning kicked off bright and early with the Homecoming Parade, where the Homecoming Court, student groups, and community members gathered and celebrated the Homecoming week with all of those who attended. This year’s Grand Marshall was Chuck Winstead, the 2015 National Champion Men’s Golf Coach. Following the Parade, a Tailgate and Battle of Bands were hosted in the Parade Ground to incite excitement before the game. During the game Bianca Webb and Michael Panther Mayen were crowned our 2015 Homecoming Queen and King! The week was concluded with a win against Western Kentucky with a final score of 20-48. Homecoming 2015 was a successful week for all students and alumni. We are already looking forward to Homecoming 2016!12052437_10152989218681330_5101923262147942200_o

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CHANGE Break Journey

ChangeMeet Shannon Matzke, a sophomore Coastal Environmental Science major at LSU. Shannon has been involved as a CHANGE Break: Georgia 2015 Team Leader, Tiger Remedy Secretary, Research Assistant in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences throughout her college career! 

Before spring break, I had never climbed a mountain, used an axe, or gone for a week without running water. Well, CHANGE Break: Georgia 2015 changed that. Over spring break, a group of 8 LSU students and 2 advisors traveled to northern, rural Georgia to do maintenance on the Appalachian Trail. I am lucky to have been part of an amazing group of people and to have gone on such an unforgettable trip.

My CHANGE Break journey began in late fall of 2014 when I received an email from Campus Life about participating in an environmental service trip over spring break. Being a tree hugger, I was immediately enticed. I had recently changed my major to Coastal Environmental Science and thought that the experience would be a good introduction into my new career path. I went to the interview and was not only accepted for the trip, but I was also chosen as a team leader. And so I began working with members of campus life and my co-leader to prepare for the far-off trip to Georgia. The first meeting with the full group came and went. We learned each other’s names, discussed the meaning of service, and participated in Geaux Big together. In Change 5the usual way of things, before we knew it, we were packing up a 15 passenger van at 4 am the day after Easter about to embark on an experience that we knew little about with a group that we were just getting to know. We were all there for different reasons. I was there because I love the environment and will do anything I can to help it, some were avid hikers, some were looking for an alternative to the usual beach trip, and some were looking to pad their resumes. We pulled away from LSU vowing to leave our fears, reservations, and nerves behind. We spent the next 10 hours sleeping, changing the radio station, and watching the flat land change into hills and eventually the Appalachian Mountains.

When we arrived in Suches, Georgia, we were more than ready to finally get out and stretch our legs, but the final miles were not what we expected. The sun was just beginning to set, and we were driving into some of the thickest fog that I had ever seen. As we drove up the winding mountains, sometimes right on the edge of a thousand foot drip, I could not help but close my eyes and hope that our advisor who was driving had some sort of experience driving in the mountains. We slowly made our way, and when we finally pulled up to our cabin, we were tired and carsick but also ready to check out the place that we would call home for the next week. We were greeted by Pat and David, two members of the Georgia Appalachian Trial Club who had been married for over 50 years and would soon impact our trip more than we could have imagined. They told us about themselves, their children, their jobs and all about the Appalachian Trail. When Marion, the GATC (Georgia Appalachian Trail Club) trail supervisor arrived, we entered the cabin and were pleasantly surprised and especially happy to learn that we had a fridge to use. We went to bed early that night (which became our routine for the whole trip) and were all excitedly wondering what the next day would bring.

Getting ready for the daChange 2y with 9 other people is no easy task when there is only one small bathroom to change in, but we made it work and at 8:30 Marion was at knocking on our door ready to lead us to our first work site. We followed him in our van up a mountain trying to keep up and quickly learned that most of the GATC members were fearless when it came to driving on the mountains. We parked at the base of a mountain, split into groups, grabbed our hard hats and tools (that we had no idea how to use) and set off. I was in a group with Pat, David and Marion along with two other LSU students. We hiked a short distance and jumped right into our tasks. Well I should say that we were ready to jump in, but in reality we had no idea what we were doing. We watched Marion dig out “dips” in the trail which were indentions in the soil to allow water to drain off of the trail instead of pooling up. We listened as David explained to us how to use a Pulaski, fire rake, and Pickmatic. We saw Pat work harder and longer than any man out there. By the time lunch rolled around, we were getting the hang of the work, even though we had only completed one or two dips. We followed the GATC members along the trail and headed up to Preacher Mountain to eat with the rest of the team. I will never forget that lunch because that was the first time that I had climbed a mountain and the first time that I had ever been so nervous that someone would fall off of a mountain once we reached the top. When we got to our lunch spot, we met up with our friends who were all sitting on this boulder-like area on the side of Preacher. We had an amazing view, and I thoroughly enjoyed our lunch except for the times that people dropped phones and hard hats and sprinted to the edge of the rock to grab them. We all survived that lunch and soon were back on the trail getting more proficient with the tools and starting to understand how the work we were doing would impact the AT (Appalachian Trail). When we were though, we headed out to the parking lot to enjoy Pat’s famous homemade cookies and chat with the GATC members. One of my favorite parts of the trip was learning about the members. The GATC consists of mostly retired men (and a few amazing women like Pat) who for the most part over 60. The men we worked with were all about 70 years old, and we struggled to keep up with their hiking pace and work ethic. I think that we all decided that the key to eternal youth is to do trail work after retirement.

The days continued with Change 5much of the same events as the first. We drove on a mountain, hiked, worked, and went to sleep around 9 pm. We met new GATC members, all with new stories to tell and things to teach us, hiked new mountains, and did different kinds of trail work. One day, we went up Springer Mountain, the start of the AT, and did rock work. We used sledgehammers to crush rocks to fill in gaps in the trail, and we used ropes to maneuver rocks that weighed hundreds of pounds into the right positions to build steps in the trail for hikers. We got to saw and chop roots, and at the end of the day we were able to see a visible difference in the trail. After our work, the GATC members were very excited to take us down the trail to see the privy and shelter where hikers can stay the night. We got to hear about the members’ hiking experiences. We learned who had hiked the whole trail and who had only done sections, who liked to use walking sticks and who thought they were for amateurs, and who stayed in shelter and who used tents. We also received lots of tips and tricks, mostly given to us at the expense of other hikers. When someone hiked by with a pack that was too big, the members pointed him out, and there was always an eye roll when the rare barefoot hiker would come through. They told us that the AT is 2100 miles and that only 20% of the hikers who intend on going all the way to Maine actually make it. Learning about the trail itself made us appreciate the GATC members and the work that they do even more.

We spent a total of three days doing trail work. We were given one planned off day and took another day off when it was raining. On our first off day, we took the scariest drive yet to a beautiful swinging bridge and had lunch there and did some exploring. We left and went to dinner with Bev and Olin, two GATC members. Bev and Olin have been opening their home to students working over spring break for 14 years. We were able to shower, for which we could not thank them enough, and Bev made spaghetti for us. They shared stories about their work on the trial, their family, and their travels. I loved hearing about all of the places they had been. Years ago, they decided that they wanted to visit every US national park in the country. There are over 50 parks, and they have less than 10 left. Olin is an avid photographer, so when it was time to leave, he brought out his camera and tripod for a group picture. When he saw the selfie stick that we had brought with us, we could tell that he preferred his tried and true tripod method. We all laughed along with Bev as Olin reluctantly joined in the selfie stick picture after we had taken one with his camera. We left Bev and Olin’s feeling clean and full and went to sleep late that night (late being around 10pm)Change 3

When it finally came time to leave Sunday morning, we all had to typical end of trip feelings. We felt like we had been in Georgia forever and also like we had just gotten there, and we joked that we were ready to “get back to civilization” but also were not ready to leave our mountain paradise. As we drove away, I couldn’t help but feel sad to leave the GATC members who had become our friends and the serene mountain life that I had grown to love. We all did a lot of reflecting during the experience and really thought about the meaning of service and how our view of service had changed after this trip. We came to the realization that, while we were doing worthwhile work that will make a difference in the environment, we were really the ones who were being served. Our interactions with the GATC and our time in the mountains helped us to conquer any fears that we had and to leave behind our insecurities. After climbing Blood Mountain, the highest peak on the AT in Georgia at 4000 ft, moving boulders, and crushing rocks into smithereens, you gain self-confidence that you did not have before you conquered these things. We returned to Baton Rouge after a drive that seemed to fly by, and we all went our separate ways. We recently had our last team meeting which was filled with laughter, reminiscing, and homemade king cake. Although we all signed up for CHANGE Break for different reasons, every one of us finished the journey with an unforgettable experience thatcan only be understood by the other members of the group, a group which has formed a bond of friendship that will transcend the week that we spent together in Georgia.

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