News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 9, 2012

Alternate spring break students at The Woods

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Learning about sustainable living and earth-friendly choices has brought nine students from Creighton University to St. Mary-of-the-Woods for an alternative spring break.

The students from the Omaha, Neb., campus eagerly jumped into the experiences awaiting them — eating simply, picking carrots from the garden and wild onions from the woods, mixing soil and planting seeds, and even cleaning out a hay barn.

“This is a different experience than what I’m used to,” said Hillary Serbus, a pre-med student originally from Minnesota.

Serbus and fellow pre-med student Dylan Goto, of Hawaii, were wielding paint brushes and  sprucing up the interior of the greenhouse office on Thursday, after a morning downpour and dipping temperatures put a damper on most of the outdoor work the students had been enjoying.

The students have also worked with an alpaca herd and alpaca fiber, on a bluebird and nature trails, in the organic gardens and around the Reflection Garden.

“It’s a good learning experience,” Goto said, “especially because we’re learning about the main pillars of sustainability.”

Inside the White Violent Center for Eco-justice, students Angie O’Brien and Andrea Bradley were making signs for the upcoming Earth Day celebration on April 21.

“Whatever they need us to do for service, we do,” said Bradley, a justice and peace studies student from Denver, Colo.

“We just want to serve,” O’Brien said.

“We have learned a lot about sustainability and using organic foods,” Bradley added.

The social aspect of the week-long adventure is also attractive to the participants.

“You really bond with the community you go to serve with,” said O’Brien, who is a Spanish and sociology major from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Robyn Morton of the White Violet Center said the annual service by students in the Creighton program, which assigns students to the volunteer service work, has become essential to the routine at the St. Mary-of-the-Woods campus.

“We actually have them built into our schedule, and we rely on them,” Morton said. “We tend to need a lot of hands this time of year, because it is the end of winter.

Cleaning up the property of winter debris, painting, doing repairs and starting plantings are the type of tasks the students can do while learning about sustainable living.

“We have a lot of work that has to be done,” Morton said, “We just need a lot of hands.”

Mixing in a lot of youthful enthusiasm doesn’t hurt.

“What we learn here we will take back to Omaha and use in the future,” Serbus said. “I definitely think what we learn here I will use in the rest of my life.”

Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or