South Dakota Students Experience Impactful Spring Break in Tennessee


Members of the Alternative spring break club get help from staff of Living Lands and Water, Mike and Ashley, during their spring break in Memphis.

Jeff Smith, Senior Editor

Black Hills State University’s Alternative Spring Break is a club on campus that spent over a week making a difference in Memphis, Tenn. The students spent the majority of their trip learning about the impact that trash has on the environment — along with other unforgettable experiences.

In Memphis, the Alternative Spring Break club partnered with Living Lands and Waters – an Illinois-based company whose website says it’s focus is to “host river cleanups, watershed conservative initiatives, workshops, tree plantings, and other key conservative efforts.”

Living Lands and Water started 17 years ago when Chad Pregracke wanted to clean up some local-area river banks. Pregracke’s passion and motivation has inspired thousands to volunteer their time over the years.

Throughout the week the club collected around 41,000 pounds of trash. About 85-percent of the trash collected was recyclable.

Ten students, as well as the club’s advisors, attended the trip. Black Hills State University junior Brittany Kneebone said she was filled with excitement and was motivated to go on the trip to Tennessee because of an incredible experience in Guatemala last year. Kneebone said this trip opened up her eyes and got her thinking about what else the club can do on campus to keep the area clean.

BHSU freshman Preston Hammond was another student who went on the trip to Tennessee. Hammond said he has done other service projects as well, but none of them resonated with him like this one did.

“This was the best service project I have ever done. To me it was a lot more rewarding because at the end of the day you could physically see the difference you made,” said Hammond.

The members of the club hope to pass their knowledge on to other BHSU students through enhancing club involvement, positive word of mouth, programming, and by becoming recycling advocates. As the club grows they hope to have more of a lasting impact in communities and work together to strengthen mutual ideas.

BHSU’s Kneebone said, “We made the whole experience fun. We would break out some random dance parties while cleaning up the garbage and just be joking the whole time with one another.”

80-percent of the trip to Tennessee was financed via donations, by working the BHSU athletics concessions, selling BHSU coupon cards, and sending out support letters to students’ friends and families. Some of the funds also came from sales at the Millstone and Culver’s restaurants in Spearfish.

Both Culver’s and Millstone participated in fundraising by splitting 10-percent of their proceeds from a period of a couple of days. In addition, BHSU’s Residence Life helped provide ground transportation.

This trip seemed fitting because of BHSU’s recent focus on the need for sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Assistant director of Residence Life at BHSU, Michelle Cole, said she was thankful that she got the chance to witness the negative impacts of foam products on the environment so that she could teach others about the dangers of Styrofoam. She said she enjoys contributing to the program and the students.

“[the club] provides them with an opportunity to serve their community and other communities while discovering more about themselves,” said Cole.

The Alternative Spring Break club also worked at the Spearfish Habitat for Humanity ReStore earlier this year helping sort items, rearrange large pieces of material, and cleaning some of the store’s merchandise. The group will host another service project in April 2015.