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Alternative Breaks Participants Advance Ecological Preservation

Junior Trixie Aquino often heard about the Alternative Breaks Program at Loyola Marymount University, but she had not taken advantage of the opportunity. However, after serving as a student leader on a recent environmental preservation trip to Catalina Island, the psychology major said it was life changing.

“My AB trip to Catalina Island has been the best experience I’ve had so far at LMU,” Aquino said. “I really urge all students to get involved with the program.”

During the spring 2010 break, Aquino and 11 other students traveled to Catalina Island to work on ecological preservation projects. The group worked closely with the Catalina Island Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation and preservation of the island, on projects such as removing nonnative plant species, securing the habitat for native animals, and maintaining hiking trails and other conservancy-operated facilities.

“Catalina has such a small population. We saw how all the neighbors were so friendly to each other, and how they were able to build community because of its small size,” Aquino said. “This unique quality also reflected itself in our small group of students and allowed us to become closer.”

The group also climbed to the top of Mount Orizaba, the highest point of Catalina, to pick sea rocket and fennel, both invasive plants that are damaging the island’s habitat. “The trip to Catalina Island has given me a deeper appreciation for the beauty of nature and the importance of protecting the environment at all costs,” Aquino said.

AB trips immerse students in a different culture, involve them in hands-on service experiences and educate them about international political and socioeconomic issues. AB trips are as varied in topic as they are in location, such as learning about community organizing in Central Valley, Calif., to exploring faith traditions in Pune, India.

“Alternative Breaks is a great way to spend your winter or spring break by taking action out in the world, and you’ll learn a lot more about yourself than you would sitting at home,” Aquino said.

Posted June 7, 2010