By: Isabella Bordonaro
Managing and Online Editor
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – Penn State New Kensington students traveled to Puerto Rico during the 2017 Spring Break to spend time volunteering in a foreign land.
Every year PSNK creates an Alternative Spring Break to give students the opportunity to travel, and not only experience new places, but also engage in humanitarian activities. This year, the trip was planned to Puerto Rico where the students would do work in San Juan to rehabilitate mangroves.
Shannon Josefoski, Savannah Smith, and Hannah Albright were three of the students who took part in the trip, that were interviewed for this story. They each shared their unique experience abroad, and shed light on the work they took part in while in Puerto Rico.
“I love to travel to new places and I have always wanted to travel somewhere outside of the continental U.S. so, I was really excited to board my first plane and experience something I had never experienced before,” stated Smith, a sophomore psychology major.
According to Smith, the group stayed in Condadito and also visited, “Guyanabo, Old San Juan, Carolina, and El Yunque (a rainforest).”
When asked what volunteer work was done on the trip Josefoski, a project and supply chain management major and senior stated, “Our work was planting mangroves in a wetland area that was previously cleared and developed.” She added, “without mangroves in the area there are high rates of flooding, mosquito and waterborne diseases, and lower air quality.”
“We planted 142 trees, 2,000 seeds, and transplanted 1,000 trees,” said Albright, a sophomore agriculture major. “The trees help filter out pollution in the water. The roots, when in water, are home to many species of fish, and the roots help keep the ground stay solid so it doesn’t collapse since the area is a wetland with only about of foot of dirt,” she added.
The work they did will help the community greatly. “The most rewarding part of the trip was seeing the effects our work is going to have on the community of Catano,” stated Josefoski. “The majority of the houses in that community have lost everything they owned multiple times due to flooding. With the 142 trees we planted and the work that is continuing with the local school kids hopefully they will reach their goal of 1,000 trees planted by June.”
“By planting these mangroves we are ensuring that the people in these communities will live happier and healthier lives,” said Smith. Josefoski, Smith, and Albright shared in the feeling of accomplishment knowing they left the community in a better way then they found it.
“The most rewarding part of the trip was looking back at the brush we cleared and in it’s place seeing 142 little mangrove trees that we planted,” said Smith.
The students all expressed the need to travel as a student, and to take the chance when you can.
When asked if she felt if it is important for students to travel while in school Josefoski replied, “Yes, especially in the area that we live in. Not very many families can afford to travel and experience some of the things PSNK has to offer. Not only are they going to be cheaper because of the support from the university, but you get to travel with your friends.”
Albright quoted F. Scott Fitzgerald saying, “’It’s a funny thing about coming home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you.’ I think it’s so important for students to travel while in school because it really helps you grow as a person and it can change your perspective on life and your surroundings,” she added.
Smith said when she returned home she told her mom, “The plants weren’t the only thing that grew, I did.”
Clearly, the Alternative Spring Break trip has an extremely positive affect on those who participate. Next year, take into consideration what this trip could offer you, and what you could offer to those in need.
In the words of Albright, “Don’t think twice about it. You will have no regrets.”