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Students Seek Alternative to Mainstream Spring Break Activities

Sun and sand – these two words are quintessentially linked in the American university ethos of spring break.  But for ten Cal State San Marcos students, the sun they enjoyed shined down on them while mountain biking the Monitor and Merrimac Trail just outside of Moab, Utah. The sand they brushed off their pants came from Arches National Park after a hike to see some of the legendary natural arches.During the week of spring break, March 19 to 23, Campus Recreation hosts Outdoor Spring Break. Now in its third year, students spent this spring’s trip on an unforgettable road trip, visiting four National Parks in Utah: Arches, Bryce, Canyonland and Zion. They spent their days hiking, mountain biking, taking photos, cooking and navigating the natural world while also participating in environmental stewardship training through the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.“This trip was an amazing deal for students,” said Hugo Lecomte, director of campus recreation and Leave No Trace master educator, who explained that the weeklong expedition cost only $299 per person and included breakfast and lunch every day, two dinners, lodging, all activities and transportation. “There are no prerequisites in terms of physical ability or experience,” he said. “Some of our students never camped before.  Many had never gone rock climbing. Three students had never ridden a bike. As a university, this is our perfect opportunity to promote healthy lifestyles and awareness of the environment and ecology.”“I think getting outdoors is a great way to refresh for school, and I met new people and connected more with people I already knew!” said sophomore biology major Kali Holt. This was her second Outdoor Spring Break trip and she noted it was an opportunity she couldn’t let pass.“It is typical for college students my age to enjoy Spring Break in Havasu or whatnot…but that's not really for me,” commented physics major Dylan Wiltsey. “Outdoor Spring Break was right up my alley! Every day was beyond great. That said, a few moments that I'll remember for a long time are sunrise at Mesa Arch, mountain biking in Moab, [and] hiking Observation Point and Angels Landing in Zion.”Spending Spring Break Building Green Houses for Habitat for HumanityMeanwhile, another group of ten CSUSM students shunned swimsuits and fruity drinks for hammers, drills and work gloves when they traveled across the country to Washington, D.C. to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity through the annual trip coordinated by Associated Students, Inc. (ASI).During their break, CSUSM students worked on a solar-powered home that was part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2011 Solar Decathlon. Intended to be a model for affordable, net-zero housing that can be replicated around the globe, the home, designed by the team from Parson The New School for Design, relies on “passive solar design,” using the sun’s energy for the heating and cooling of its living spaces.“The house was originally constructed on the National Mall and was later moved to a different plot of land in D.C., which was where we worked on it,” said Kimberly Jeffrey, ASI student engagement coordinator. “Although it was originally built as a one-bedroom, one-story home, Habitat [for Humanity] turned it into a duplex by adding a second floor and turn[ing] each side into a three-bedroom, two-story home.” “When I graduate I want to join the Peace Corps and dedicate myself to service,” said Sammi Carr, a third-year mass media major, prior to leaving on the trip. “This is an opportunity to get used to what the Peace Corps might be like.”The group had a variety of tasks throughout the week, which included constructing an overhang and gutter system on a second floor deck that would help collect water for a greywater system; blocking the ceiling for the installation of a load bearing wall; insulating windows and doors to help prevent drafts; and painting side panels. During their off-hours, the group had a chance unwind and explore the city’s rich heritage.“I feel that this—giving back—is a worthwhile way to spend my spring break,” said Stephanie Little, a second-year Human Development major. “It’s a better feeling and a more important cause.”