I’m writing this post as I enjoy my first week back in the office in a month. Starting March 4th and continuing until April 1st, I was kept extremely busy by the enchanting, exciting, and exhausting alternative spring breaks at Grand Canyon National Park!

I have a history with alternative breaks… I was an ‘alt breaker’ in college—I went on my first alternative break my junior year to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The following summer, I came to the Grand Canyon for the ABCs, or Alternative Break Citizenship Schools. The ABCs are a week long conference held in the summer for the leaders of alternative break organizations at colleges across the nation. I attended this conference as a newly selected site leader for an upcoming spring break trip to Big Bend Ranch State Park and had the opportunity to learn all about alternative breaks from the staff of Break Away while also taking part in service with the wildland fire crew in the park.

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An ABCs participant spreads woodchips as part of the summer 2016 volunteer project with wildland fire

It’s because of my attendance at the ABCs that I found out about the Centennial Volunteer Ambassador program and was selected to serve as Grand Canyon’s CVA after I graduated college. This is one of the reasons I was especially excited to work with the alternative breaks this March—because I was in their shoes just a few years ago, and now I am living and working at one of the coolest places in the world.

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Me (left) with former Grand Canyon/current San Antonio Missions CVA Sarah Lechich (right) and founder of the Student Conservation Association Liz Putnam (center) at my favorite viewpoint of the Grand Canyon!

This March, Grand Canyon hosted 8 different schools who volunteered on projects including cleaning up microtrash (more about that here), building burn piles with the wildland fire crew, assisting with parking management, and even doing inner canyon trail work. You’d be surprised at just how much fun college students can have while picking up trash and piling up logs in the woods, and at how each school has a totally distinct personality.

As I walked along the rim trail heading toward the Yavapai Geology Museum with Utah State University, the students were continuously proposing and solving riddles while they picked up cigarette butts, food packaging, and other litter we found along the way. I was absolutely ecstatic each time I was able to solve one of the riddles! The students from Texas Tech and I had a blast seeing the canyon and talking about life goals while we answered visitors’ questions about how to get to the rim of the canyon. I loved hearing the Chapman University students develop a Grand Canyon cheer as we built 6x6x6ft piles of wood that will be burned next winter. And I even got to hear some of the students from University of California Santa Barbara singing songs from High School Musical as they roved parking lots and helped visitors find where they needed to go.

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Utah State University modeling the trash they picked up on the rim trail along Hermit Rd

Now it’s time for me to get planning for the upcoming volunteer projects. It’s wild to think that I’ll be finishing up here in less than two months but I cannot wait to see where the future will take me!