Campus Life

Alternative Spring Break: Students Share Their Experience, Part 1

*Note: Content in this blog post originally appeared on the Dean of Student's Facebook page. This is part one of a two-part series featuring first-hand accounts of students' experience during this year's Alternative Spring Break trip to volunteer in a Ronald McDonald House in Los Angeles, Calif. and Family Pals for the Painted Turtle's Family Weekend Camp in Lake Huges, Calif.  Both projects focused on chronic and life-threatening illnesses. 

Wednesday, March 13

It was 2:55 a.m., and my alarm went off today. I wish I could say that the alarm woke me up, but unfortunately I was already awake when it rang. One of the most anxious parts of the day for me was getting to the airport and through security successfully, but after that everything was better.

Overall, it was a very exciting and nerve-wracking day for everyone in the group. There were two separate groups one which traveled through the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the other half went on a hiking trip to the top of the Hollywood sign.

I was part of the group that hiked up the Hollywood sign, and it was a very tiring hike due to the fact that we got lost and walked over 6 miles. However, I would not have done it any different because once we got to the top of the hill, the view was truly beautiful and the bonding we had as a group was indispensable. My sleep that night couldn’t have been more peaceful.

- Roxanna Lopez, a sophomore chemistry major at Dalton State

Waking up early tends to be hard for me, but I was actually looking forward to it this morning! My alarm was set for 2 a.m., but I was awake and doing some last minute packing before it even rang. While some people see it as a nuisance, I genuinely enjoy the process of traveling through an airport. I was in sensory overload, and I was loving every second of it!

We arrived in California after a five-hour flight, and each and every one of us was absolutely exhausted. That wasn’t enough to keep us from what came next— the longest, steepest, most amazing hike of my entire life.

Originally, we planned to hike up to the top of the Hollywood sign. Sounds easy enough for a group of bright DSC students, right? Wrong. Our group ended up taking a wrong turn at some point, and we tacked on at least six extra miles to our journey. It was absolutely worth it. Through the burning muscles and blistering heat, we managed to make some of the best memories. I will cherish that wrong turn we took for the rest of my life!

California already has a special place in my heart, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for us.

- Fallyn Watson, a junior nursing major at Dalton State

Although I ran off of four hours of sleep, my first day In Los Angeles was breathtaking.

I’m surprised how drastically my day turned around; I remember holding back tears while going through security at the airport because everyone seemed to know what to do except me. Once we landed, a rush of adrenaline hit me. I wanted to get to the hotel as soon as possible so we could start exploring the city.

From eating tacos at a local Mexican restaurant to hiking six miles to see the Hollywood sign, my view was always amazing.

I’ll be honest, there were plenty of times where I felt discouraged and drained. However, I’m grateful to have met some people in this group who helped me think more positively. I can’t wait to laugh more and get to know my group a bit better.

-Trini Hujion, a junior nursing major at Dalton State

Thursday, March 14

Day two was an interesting adventure to say the least. Waking up in California was a beautiful experience. We drove to the Santa Monica Pier and bonded at the beach. I got to see Beverly Hills and Vince Beach.

The greatest adventure was attempting to ride the electric scooters. Unfortunately I crashed into a friend and spent a night in the ER. Luckily, I left with a very fashionable boot on my right foot.

Overall, I learned that I’m not meant for scooters, but I am meant for trying new things. California has yet to stop surprising me.

-Allika Peeler-Bagley, a marketing major at Dalton State

The second day of our trip was in a lot of ways more controlled and grounded than the first day. The entire group got to explore Santa Monica Pier and Beverly Hills. While experiencing the locations was fun.. the friendships I made during the process mean a lot more to me. I was having the best time of my life with people I barely knew, and now they feel like my best friends. I love California, I love scooters and I love the people I've gotten to meet and connect with!

-Brice Burris, a sophomore general studies major at Dalton State

Friday, March 15

Today is the day we get down and dirty in what we came to California to actually do: volunteer projects! But of course, we had to do one more cool thing before we got to work! After we said goodbye to our other friends going to Lake Hughes and took a cute picture in all of our matching shirts, we went on another little adventure ourselves. We went to The Broad Museum and got to see many paintings, statues, and a room full of mirrors with infinite lights.

Leading up to this day, there were lots of turns and unexpected bumps in what we were going to end up doing BUT it turned out being a huge success. Our idea was to host a movie night at the Ronald McDonald House! Preparing for this, Kyle, Mariela, and I went to the local Walmart in West L.A. to find a movie and craft supplies. We ended up not having cell service and being two hours away from our hotel, having a hard time to get an Uber to drive us back. Eventually, we were able to find one and make it back to the Ronald McDonald house to set up.

We ended up having a great night with seven kids that loved having visitors come do activities with them. Being able to connect and communicate with them was one of the most humbling and genuinely loving feelings I have ever experienced. Especially aspiring to be an elementary school teacher, these kids hold a very special place in my heart and how much of a good time they got to have.

One little boy came with his mom and instantly introduced himself with his full name and his favorite things. He explained that he was 5 years old and loved zebras, butterflies, and super heroes. I later learned that he was diagnosed with AML at the age of 8 months and is currently in remission. AML stands for acute myeloid leukemia and is a rapidly progressing cancer. Basically the bone marrow is less able to create normal white and red blood cells and platelets, furthermore the cells divide quickly and the disease may possibly spread fast. He had received four rounds of chemotherapy and various medicines. He sounds like the super hero to me!

Overall, I learned how much of an impact you can have on someone just by going and spending time with them. Going and listening to them talk about anything and everything could mean the absolute world!

-Becky Clinton, a freshman elementary education major at Dalton State

After packing up at the hotel and taking a few group pictures, we started the drive to Lake Hughes. We were all pretty hungry so we stopped at In and Out, which is the best thing in the entire world. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous on the ride with the mountains and very, very windy roads. After we arrived and checked-in, we threw our belongings in the room and headed to the volunteer tour/orientation.

As soon as that was over, we all headed to the cabin our family would be staying at. I was super nervous about meeting my family. I’ve never really been about anything like this. I was worried that I wouldn’t connect with my family and it would be an awkward weekend. I think that everyone was feeling the same thing. My family arrived shortly and were some of the most welcoming people I’ve ever met. The parents were very inviting and would ask me so many questions and really tried to get to know me.

The kids were pretty shy at first and wouldn’t talk directly to me. After they unpacked a little, we headed to check them in at the Well Shell and went to the dining hall. After sitting around for a little while, dinner started. They made some great mashed potatoes, corn, Salisbury steak, and chocolate chip cookies.

Afterwards we had some down time, so two of the boys in the family decided to play some Pictionary. Turns out they are way better drawers than I am, and they completely demolished me. After playing games with them, they seemed to warm up to me a lot more, and so did I. We laughed and joked with each other until it was time for the “campfire.”

Camp staff went over the various safety rules, sang songs, played games, played pranks on the parents, and put on a few skits. It was honestly even funny for me.

The kids had a great time and so did I, even the parents had a great time today. I really do hope I can make some impact on this kid and his family, but most importantly, I hope they all have the time of their lives and forget everything that’s going on in their lives.

Even if I don’t make a difference, I know I will never forget my family and they will have such a big impact on me. Even though we’ve been at camp for just a few hours, I can feel myself changing and realizing I shouldn’t be worried about things in my own life, when there are people who have it much harder than I do.

Check out one of our camp songs in the video. It’s a strategy to help orient campers to expectations and inclusivity during the camp kickoff ceremony. It’s referred to as the STAR methods of behavior. We think this is applicable to life everywhere and wanted to share!

-Savanah Swanson a sophomore accounting major at Dalton State

Day three of our trip was a completely new adventure for most of us as we left the city life behind to join the campers at The Painted Turtle in Lake Hughes, Calif. On our journey to camp, we were able to eat at In and Out Burger for the first time. It was definitely a fast food experience like no other, to me at least!

After this, we silently sat in the van admiring the beautiful landscapes and anticipating what we were about to encounter. Most of us were nervous about not knowing what to expect from meeting the campers, but since we met them, we have all had the best time, and were so excited to spend the next few days with them!

Other than being directionally challenged and nearly getting lost twice at camp, I can honestly say there were absolutely no lows for me as I’ve been here! All my anxiety about not being able to connect with the family and provide them with the best possible camp experience quickly vanished as soon as I met them! They are truly amazing in a way that they are able to look passed their situation and just enjoy life!

I was so grateful I got to go on this trip, and I will forever cherish the memories that were made as well as the things I have learned! By simply getting involved and stepping outside my comfort zone, I have realized how much more fun everything is and have seen myself personally growing just within the past three days! I hope to have many more experiences like this in the future!

-Breonna Brown, a junior physics/pre-engineer major at Dalton State


posted 03/20/2019 in Uncategorized



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