Fall 2018 Partner: International Rescue Committee

Author: Jordan Paul, DSC Member

fall break 2018 flyerThe world is always changing. As the world moves forward, so do the challenges we’re faced with. Fortunately, people also have the potential to grow into the type of service-oriented leaders needed to keep pace with a changing world. The members of Devils Spark Change use our willingness to serve as a stepping stone to not only improve the world around us but ourselves as well.

During the Fall 2018 service trip, we have the excellent pleasure of working with an influential nonprofit called the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Focused on a variety of issues, the IRC works across the globe in Europe, Asia, Africa, the middle east, Central and South America, and here in the United States to encourage positive change.

The mission of the IRC is to “help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future”. It’s only a single sentence, but one powerful enough to stir hope in generations of immigrants and refugees since 1942, when the International Relief Association and Emergency Rescue Committee first joined forces.

The IRC is not simply about helping individual people, but also spreading a sense of hope and security that had been taken from many of the people it serves.

IRC focuses their approach towards:

  • Health – Support for workers and advocacy
  • Safety – In work, school, and home
  • Economic wellbeing – Provide shelter, food/water, and encourage self-sufficiency
  • Education – Cognitive and social development
  • Power – The ability to create your own future



It has been compelling to come across such a statement declaring power as a focus, especially since it is essential to the other four focuses as well. Their focus on empowerment gives a voice to the voiceless, particularly women and children who otherwise may have remained silenced. It helps people take control of their futures in a way that makes them excited to live and learn and grow. Power is not about bullies and negativity, but rather about the giving people the opportunity to take charge of their lives in a new way.

Our president Sami Mooney expresses, “We are constantly asking our members what topics they’d like our trips to cover, and immigration and refugee resettlement was a popular one! On a personal note, I grew up in Arizona and lived/went to school in communities with many Latino students, some of which were undocumented. I have always struggled with understanding why people have prejudices toward immigrants in immersive experiences. Politics feel impersonal until it impacts you or someone you know. Through this trip, I can confidently say that our students will gain a more comprehensive view of how immigration and refugee policy affects real people.”

Our whole club is thrilled to be able to join such a widespread organization. DSC takes it as our mission to continually work towards understanding complex issues and sharing that newfound understanding with others. Join us!


Special Announcement!

Hello everyone! As we are gearing up for our trip to Tucson this upcoming Fall Break, we hope you have had the chance to sign up! We are also incredibly excited to announce that this Fall Break we will have a very special guest attending the trip with us.

When we head down to Tucson to serve with the International Rescue Committee (more to come on them soon!), we will be joined by Dr. Elizabeth Larson, a resident expert, and advocate for refugees. Below, please enjoy Dr. Larson’s bio and join us in welcoming her to Devils Spark Change!

Dr. Larson is a cultural geographer and teaches full-time a wide range of human, regional, and environmental geography courses at Arizona State University.  Her early research was on the Central American refugee crises. Here area of study was Nicaraguan assimilation into Costa Rican society.

In the mid-late 1990s, after moving to Arizona, she shifted her focus and coordinated a two-year program, “Voices from Communities in Transition” for the 

Beth Larson

Arizona Humanities Council (AHC) (1995-1997).  “Voices” won the distinguished Shwartz Prize awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, for excellence in public programming.

When the Arizona Humanities Council’s “Voices” program ended in 1997, Dr. Larson was hired by the City of Scottsdale to develop “Scottsdale Voices”, a citizen engagement program modeled after AHC’s ‘Voices’.  In that capacity, Elizabeth facilitated public forums on issues relevant to city government and community life, and also consulted with the International City/County Managers Association (ICMA) conducting training workshops in Mexico on citizen participation strategies. In 1998 she was awarded the City Hall Communications Award of Merit for “Scottsdale Voices: Strengthening the Quality of Community Dialogue:, and the 3CMA (Connect, Communicate, Celebrate Marketing Association) Savvy Communications Award of Excellence for “Scottsdale Voices: Community Visioning Process.”  In 2002, she was awarded the AHC’s Distinguished Public Scholar Award.

Since 2004, Elizabeth has taught cultural and human geography at ASU, where she is faculty in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.  In addition, Dr. Larson continues to work with the Arizona Humanities Council on several Literature and Medicine series (St. Joseph’s Hospital and the VA Hospital in Phx) and has lead other Book Discussion series.  She has been a member of AHC’s Speakers Bureau since 1997, and she has given dozens of talks throughout the state on Afghanistan; Arab-American Demography; the Cultural Geography of the Middle East; and Arizona’s Changing Demography.

We also took the opportunity to ask Dr. Larson a few questions so that we could get to know her a little better. Below is our conversation!

DSC: How did you first become interested in refugees?

Dr. Larson: I first became interested in refugees as a Masters student. I was searching for a topic for my Doctoral Dissertation, and someone suggested that I investigate Nicaraguan refugees living in Costa Rica. So, that’s what I did! I moved to Costa Rica in 1989 to live for a semester and study the Nicaraguans who had crossed into Costa Rica. Central America was full of refugees in the 1980s and early 1990s. My study looked at how the Nicaraguans were integrating into Costa Rican society and into the economy. Since then, I’ve had a keen interest in refugees and a special place for them in my heart.

DSC: Why should we know more about refugees?

Dr. Larson: Refugee populations are growing worldwide. Refugees are one of the most vulnerable demographic groups of any segment of the population. They’ve fled their homelands, often with nothing, often after losing loved ones in war or other conflict situations. They can languish in refugee camps for years, or they can be integrated into a neighboring country’s economy/society, or they may be resettled into 3rd countries (which most of the refugees in the US are). Sometimes, people enter this country or other countries with little or no knowledge of the country they are being resettled into. The hoops they have to jump through can be especially difficult because of language barriers, income levels, religious customs, and many other factors. In short, although they’re safe from the dangers of the place they’ve fled from, refugees have many obstacles to overcome.

DSC: What do you think is the biggest public misconception about refugees?

Dr. Larson: I think the biggest misconception about refugees is that they have easy access to this country or others, and can enter any time, and among them, there may be unsavory individuals who wish to do harm. While something like that possibly could occur, it is not the usual way for a terrorist to infiltrate a place. Refugees are scrutinized and vetted quite extensively before they can gain access to this country and other countries of resettlement.

DSC: Why are you excited about this trip?

Dr. Larson: I’m excited about this trip because I do hold a special place in my heart for refugees. I am a cultural geographer and people and places and cultures are what I love most. I love to share my experiences and knowledge of refugee groups with students. And, I’d love to meet more refugees and refugee groups and know more about Arizona’s refugee populations.

Thank you, Dr. Larson for investing your time and interest in Devils Spark Change and our mission this Fall Break! We are so excited for this trip with you. 

Fall Break 2018 Trip Announcement

Hey everyone! Welcome back to ASU! We are so excited for this year and the things we have planned. Devils Spark Change celebrated its first birthday over the summer, and we are hitting the ground running planning the trips for this year.

We are so stoked to announce that we will be going to TUCSON, AZ this fall break, to serve with the International Refugee Committee! Stay tuned for more info about IRC and what we will be doing with them. Sign up now!

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Spring Break 2018

This spring in honor of women’s herstory month and international women’s day, we decided to return to Prescott again for our spring break trip! We were so grateful to Stepping Stones for having us back for another trip focused on domestic violence and how we can help.

This time, it was much warmer than it was in January – which we were also thankful for. However, we did get hit with a ton of rain, something we don’t see much during spring break in Phoenix!

This time at Stepping Stones we got to do work in all of their locations, of course starting with their coffee shop for some complimentary coffees and smoothies (the best!!). Our first day began meeting with Jesus, Stepping Stone’s fearless volunteer coordinator (whom we later learned played professional soccer in his past – internationally!). Our group had many questions, from how to talk about resources to a friend who may be experiencing abuse, to how stepping stones keeps their shelter location a secret in order to keep the women and children safe.

For service this week we worked in the clothing store, the red barn (furniture and knick-knacks) and their location in downtown Prescott where they sell all sorts of things. Our first day was spent at the clothing outlet where our team participated in every job available! We did every step including opening donation bags and choosing what should go to the floor and what should be donated elsewhere, pricing and tagging items, and hanging clothes on the floor. A lot of us found our future in retail from discovering we had keen eyes for the potential of clothing donations and displaying clothes in the perfect way..

Our second day one of the case managers gave us a tour of the actual shelter that Stepping Stones runs. We got to learn so much about how Stepping Stones does things differently, and about domestic violence survivors. At Stepping Stones the emergency shelter is a lot like a home. There is a large living room, where one woman was filling out job applications while we were looking around. We passed by the room where the hotline is manned. For 24 hours a day every single day of the year, there is someone there to answer the phone. One thing that we noticed is that there is a lot of diversity among the survivors in the shelter. Some women are on their own, and others have children with them. All of the residents contribute to meals and chores for the entire shelter. The shelter is organized to be very communal which is unlike other domestic violence shelters. We also got to meet some of the residents living in the transitional apartments. These are fully furnished apartments that families can live in for up to two years. This is a great option for families that no longer need emergency shelters but still need a little time to save money for a housing deposit and other expenses.

Stepping Stones was the first domestic violence shelter in the entire country. In the beginning, Stepping Stones was located in Glendale, Arizona. At that time, domestic violence wasn’t considered a legal issue. We got to meet the fearless woman who founded Stepping Stones; she lobbied Congress, worked to make domestic violence illegal and provided shelter for domestic violence survivors. Getting to have lunch with her was a highlight of the trip, and certainly to our women’s herstory month!

On our way out the Executive Director of Stepping Stones stopped us and let us know that Devils Spark Change is always welcome to serve with Stepping Stones. We were very encouraged when she told us that DSC’s volunteers work harder than average volunteers and that we had expressed more interest in domestic violence as an issue than any other volunteer group. She was grateful that DSC came back for our spring break and she was confident that beyond the difference we made for Stepping Stones, that our students would continue to make a difference wherever they go because of their passion for awareness and supporting others.

We are excited to come back to Stepping Stones next year and continue to build on our partnership with this incredible nonprofit!

Domestic Violence Service Recap

As we settle into the spring semester, Devils Spark Change is both smiling back on our successful Martin Luther King Jr. weekend trip, and eagerly looking forward to our next adventures over spring break. But for now, we’d like to spend a little time recapping our time in Prescott this MLK weekend and share a little about the impact that we were so fortunate to have the opportunity to contribute to.

As those of you who have been following us know, this past MLK weekend we took 16 ASU students up to Prescott, Arizona to work with a non-profit called Stepping Stones Agencies. Stepping Stones is a non-profit that provides resources including housing, meals, security, job preparation, counseling services, and more to women and children escaping a domestic violence situation. If you’d like to read more about Stepping Stones, check out our recent blog post on them, as well as their website for more information. Because of the nature of the work that they do, Stepping Stones is very careful with who they allow to work directly with the women and children in the shelter. It is for this reason that the service that we did while there may have looked from the outside like it was completely unrelated to domestic violence, but in reality, it could not have been more important.

Stepping Stones garners almost the entirety of its funds from its two thrift stores. In those stores, $0.94 of every dollar made goes directly to supporting the women and children at the shelter, and the other $0.06 they say, goes to keep the lights on. The people of Prescott Valley bring donations in droves; there are so many boxes that the great-hearted people who work to unpack and sort them for the shops can hardly keep up with the influx of things. It was throughout that long process of unboxing to shelving that Devils Spark Change contributed the most help.

We arrived in chilly Prescott on Saturday afternoon, and after lunch we got to have a great discussion with two staff members at Stepping Stones who further explained to us their mission and day-to-day work. Our team had a lot of thought-provoking questions that the staff at Stepping Stones answered confidently. As DSC leadership, we were all very proud during that conversation to have brought together such a bright group of individuals who really care about the issue we were hoping to have an impact on.

After our lunch and discussion, we got right to work. We split into two teams: one team to go to the warehouse where the donation sorting was done, and the other to go to the clothing thrift store to sort, price, and put out clothing on the sales floor. Those of us in the warehouse were further broken up into groups of box-openers, item cleaners, electronics testers, and repackagers, while the Stepping Stones employees were pricing all the items. All of these groups continued in the work they began on Saturday through Monday afternoon, until there was an absolutely huge dent in the mountain of donations that was set before us. As we finished up for the weekend, we all went to the thrift store and organized shelves and inventory in preparation for a big sale they were planning on having. In the end, Stepping Stones encouraged us so much by letting us know that we helped them accomplish work in that weekend alone that they had been wanting to do for at least 3 years, but never had enough hands to do so. Knowing that we were actually able to help them in such a tangible way that we could see was directly helping the women coming out of domestic violence situations was obviously the most rewarding thing of all.

Nighttime group activities


As is tradition for Devils Spark Change trips, in the evenings after service we went through some powerful programming around domestic and relationship violence. We had a lot of difficult conversations with each other, and we sometimes disagreed, but that was more than okay. We want more than anything on DSC trips to foster an environment where it is okay to ask the “stupid” questions, and it’s okay not to be an expert on everything. Through interactive activities and discussions it is safe to say that we all learned something new about domestic violence, as well as about each other. Which was great, because we finished off the last night by holding our induction and superlatives ceremony! After a student completes a service trip with Devils Spark Change, they are then formally initiated as an official member of the club, with priority registration on all future trips and the potential to reach a leadership position (sounds great, right? ASU students join join join!). New member induction and team superlatives are always a great way to finish what has been a challenging but rewarding service trip.

Relaxing in historic downtown Prescott

We had overall an amazing experience with Stepping Stones over MLK weekend. And so….without further ado….it is our pleasure to announce that for spring break, we will be going BACK to Stepping Stones to continue our work there! We are so excited to pick up where we left off this winter and continue to fight against domestic and relationship violence. And as an added bonus, we will be going during Women’s Herstory Month (March), so we feel that it is even more appropriate. If you are interested in going, please consider applying! The application link can be found here, as well as our informational flyer here. We hope to see you there!

Why Prescott? (MLK Weekend)

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Devils Spark Change is dedicated to intentionally and thoughtfully choosing the kinds of service areas that we devote our time and energy to. While directing service towards things like environmental issues is great (and we love that, see our Catalina trip this past fall), there’s certainly a difference between a trip centered around our beautiful earth, and a trip centered around something as sobering as domestic violence. It is certainly a heavy theme for a service trip, and it can be a very difficult thing to talk about. It’s also difficult to imagine that a small team could make any sort of impact on such an elusive issue. But the fact of the matter is that avoiding the topic is one of the things that perpetuates it. And the more that we step out and confront these issues, the more swiftly we will see change. And that is what we are striving for in DSC. And so, for all these reasons and more, we have chosen to take our Martin Luther King Jr. weekend trip to Prescott, Arizona, to work with Stepping Stones, a nationally renowned non-profit that works tirelessly to provide relief and resources to victims of domestic violence.

Many people are unaware of the severity and prevalence of domestic violence because its victims are often silenced. Below are some statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) that show a little more of why this issue is so pressing to us. NCADV reports that:

  • In the United States, an average of 20 people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute. This equates to more than 10 million abuse victims annually.
  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been physically abused by an intimate partner.
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been severely physically abused by an intimate partner.
  • 1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked. Stalking causes the target to fear she/he or someone close to her/him will be harmed or killed.
  • On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines nationwide receive approximately 20,800 calls.
  • Intimate partner violence is most common among women between the ages of 18-24

Because we know that domestic violence is an overwhelmingly underreported issue, these statistics just give a glimpse of how big of an issue this is. And the first step that anyone concerned with it can take is to educate themselves on the prevalence of domestic violence, and then learn the warning signs. In doing this ourselves, DSC as a club took the Escalation training put together by One Love, a foundation created to spread awareness and educate about domestic violence. We highly recommend this training for anyone who is interested in learning about the signs of an abusive relationship.

So why did we choose Stepping Stones specifically for our MLK trip? In choosing our service locations and partners, we always want to make sure that the organization we are working with has similar values to us, especially when it comes to not assuming that outsiders (to any issue) know better how to solve the problem than those actually living it. We are all certainly in agreement on that. Stepping Stones is a non-profit organization whose mission is to end domestic violence, homelessness, and other forms of victimization. Stepping Stones is committed to promoting “individual self-sufficiency, personal growth, self worth, and resiliency in the women and children” by encouraging those that they help to assess their needs, educate for change and empowerment, and establish healthy relationships with those around them. Those working at Stepping Stones Agencies believein “upholding victims;’ rights and validating traumatic, exploited, and victimizing circumstances.”

Stepping Stones Agencies accomplishes their goals through several programs and services, including an emergency shelter, a transitional living program, and a HelpLine. They are “committed to responding to women and children who need a therapeutic and advocacy response due to family violence, sexual assault, homelessness, neglect or exploitation.” In their therapeutic responses, Stepping Stones Agencies does not shy away from hard truths in an effort to allow individuals to “make significant changes in their lives and the lives of their children.” Stepping Stones also takes special note of children victims, calling them “primary victims” whose well being is of utmost importance.

We are very excited to serve with this wonderful organization that is doing such needed work for victims of domestic violence. In addition to this being a great opportunity for service, we know that we have so much to learn about domestic violence and those whom it affects, and we are all looking forward to taking everything we learn back home and back to ASU campus where we can continue to educate and make a difference even after the trip. 



NDADV Stats: https://ncadv.org/statistics

OneLove Escalation Training: https://www.joinonelove.org/act/escalation-workshop/

Stepping Stones Agencies: http://steppingstonesaz.org

Meet the Team: Prescott, AZ

Devils Spark Change is getting ready to launch our second service trip! We are so excited for this team of amazing individuals to come together and serve in the area of domestic violence in Prescott, AZ. Over the coming weeks, look out for more blog posts about the nonprofit we will be working with and what we’ll be doing for them, but in the meantime, take a look at all the wonderful people we will have coming with us! Thanks for keeping up with DSC!

Susie Puga (TRIP LEAD, 2nd DSC Trip!)

I am passionate about building a sustainable society that also advances the mental and emotional well-being of individuals. I think learning about domestic violence awareness and how to act empathetically to those situations is very relevant to what I hope to achieve. Domestic violence is very prevalent but it’s so painful; I don’t think many talk about it. I want to learn how best have those key conversations.

Alyssa Norton

I am a first generation student studying accountancy in the W.P. Carey School of Business. I have done many small things to help people in my community, but when I heard about the trip I felt very compelled to apply as I thought it would be very impactful. I felt as though this trip has the possibility of having a huge impact on not just me, but many others as well.

Madeleine Korn (2nd DSC Trip!)

I am very friendly and hard-working. I love participating in service trips and I had so much fun on the trip to Catalina Island! I chose to participate on this trip because I am interested in learning more about domestic violence and also helping domestic violence victims.

Alexis Moore

I’m an Interdisciplinary Studies major focusing on Film and History. I strongly believe in the power of art to make change, and hope to exist/create from a place of empathy. This trip seems like an amazing opportunity to grow and give – I’m excited to work with the team!


Arianna Lew

Hi friends! My name is Arianna Freedom Lew and I’m a Junior at Barrett the Honors College studying Biological Sciences with a Minor in Global Health. My passion for serving others stems from wanting to help people live easier lives and speak for those who have no voice. In addition, I’m passionate about mental health, fitness, traveling, and dogs. I’m excited to attend the MLK trip as I’ve yet to learn more about Domestic Violence and how this looks from a different perspective. This is a crucial and important issue amongst today’s society so I’m looking forward to see how Prescott Valley manages to spread awareness.

Alyssa Tong

Hello! My name is Alyssa Tong and I am a junior studying Biology with a concentration in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior. I have always loved participating in service events and being able to serve others. My goal is to be able to learn skills so that I can help people in every way possible. I’m so excited to be a part of this trip and to be able to grow alongside all of the other people on this trip!

Sarabeth Henne (2nd DSC Trip!)

My name is Sarabeth Henne, and I’m a junior at Barrett, the Honors College. I’m pursuing a BA in print journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and a minor in sustainability. This is my second trip with Devils Spark Change, I’m thrilled to be working with this amazing team! I’m excited to travel to Prescott and learn more about domestic violence and what we can do to help.


Carly Golding (2nd DSC Trip!)

Empathy and communication skills are the most important skills anyone can have, I believe, and I feel called to serve on this trip to help strengthen these things within my own life, as well as other people’s lives.

Jordan Paul 

Law enforcement has always been a passion of mine, and learning more about domestic violence is one step closer to making the world a safer place.

Additional team members (declined to post bio):

Taylor Kennaugh

Mary Fryda


Catalina Island Trip Recap (Fall Break 2017)



Devils Spark Change @ Catalina Island – Fall Break 2017

Well, here we are! We are so excited that Devils Spark Change has officially completed its first service trip. And what an amazing trip it was. Every person on our team played such a crucial role in our success. It’s safe to say that we’ve all walked away with more knowledge about supporting the environment, and countless great memories too! Service trips have such a great way of people together. You may come as strangers, but you leave as a team. And that’s pretty cool if you ask us.

In this blog post you will find pictures of our trip, and an account of all the things we did and learned. We would like to thank everyone who donated to Devils Spark Change for  our trip to Catalina; without you, this trip wouldn’t have been the same!


At 5:30am on Saturday, October 7th, fifteen sleepy people piled into a bus and set out for the West coast! We arrived at the Catalina ferry boat port anxious to get to the island. We even saw some dolphins on the ferry ride over! When we arrived at the island we made our way to our campsite with the most BEAUTIFUL view. After stopping in the little local grocery store, we made quesadillas for dinner as the sun set in a puff of cotton-candy colors.

That night we had our first campfire and discussed the things we were most looking forward to. In addition to the service, we were looking forward to learning things we could do at home to continue supporting the environment, no matter where we might be. Most of us slept under the stars that first night; we were so ready to get started with our service!

Throughout the weekend we were working with the Catalina Island Conservancy, whose mission is “is to be a responsible steward of our lands through a balance of conservation, education and recreation.” The conservancy controls 88% of the land on the island, which is a lot! Because of this it was really cool to work with them because we knew that we were helping to conserve such a huge piece of the environment.

On our first day of service, our project was to hike up a mountain and bring down large chunks of roughly coiled barbed wire. In total, we hiked about five miles up and down; some of us even had to make multiple trips. As we completed the project – dragging, rolling, and begging the barbed wire to come all the way down – we learned about why it was there in the first place and why it was so important that we remove it from the environment.


Contrary to what you might expect, the wire we were removing was actually put there on purpose. Catalina island has been inundated with many invasive species over generations, so much so that those species have multiplied and seriously threaten some of the wildlife that can only be found on Catalina island. This is serious – unless the Catalina Island Conservancy takes precautionary measures such as fencing off endangered plants, those plants face total extinction. So the conservancy does take those measures to protect them! And once the plants have had an opportunity to grow back, it is important that the project is completed. That means removing the wire and restoring the environment back to its natural state. It is very important to make sure that in trying to help the environment, we don’t end up making it worse by leaving a project unfinished. And during the whole project we had an amazing view, so that definitely helped in the morale department. We also got to swim in the ocean afterwards!

Around the fire that night we discussed the things we had learned and the impact they had on us. Many mentioned that they were blown away by the complexity of ecological and environmental issues, especially on an island, where everything seems even more complicated than on the mainland. It had been so eye-opening to hear throughout the day about everything that goes into conservation from the staff at the CIC. 

After our fireside reflection, DSC leadership had the honor of officially inducting all our team members into Devils Spark Change! We awarded each member their certificate, T-shirt, sticker set, and even trip superlatives (these were the best part, if you ask us).  Recognition is an important value to us in DSC; it is very important to us that everyone feels valued and appreciated. Once everyone got their certificate, we all sat at the picnic table and wrote notes to each other on the backs (kinda like a yearbook signing). Then it was time for bed. It was, after all, the ungodly hour of 9:30pm. (Service is exhausting, as we found.)

On our second and final day of service we got to set up the local school’s garden. This was a super rewarding project, because we knew that our work would allow kids to learn about the environment early on in their education.

DSC is dedicated to making sure that everyone has to opportunity to experience service, and this project was helping provide that opportunity for elementary school students. So that was really special. While we were there we pulled weeds, organized supplies, filled plant beds with fresh soil, and even built a functioning irrigation system! (Some of us even used a drill for the first time *insert sunglasses emoji*).

After this project we got to explore the city of Avalon for just a while before catching the ferry home.

As the island of Catalina grew smaller and smaller in the distance, we waved goodbye (and took lots of pictures, naturally).

We are so happy with the way that our first trip went. Relationships were built, and countless environmental lessons were learned. And even though we were only there for a couple days, we know that we made a difference there, however small it may seem. No effort is too small!

If you or anyone that you know are interested in doing service work on Catalina island, we can’t recommend working with the Catalina Island Conservancy enough. We had such a great experience – everyone on staff there is so kind and truly cares about the island. We will definitely be back again! Until then…


Meet the Team: Catalina

We are so excited about the amazing team that has come together for this service trip to Catalina Island! Each of these talented individuals has something unique that they bring to the team, and we wanted to give each of them a chance to share a bit about themselves and what they are passionate about. Read on to learn about each of the amazing people sparking change in Catalina this fall break!


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Hey there! My name is Sarabeth Henne, and I’m a junior at Barrett, the Honors College. I’m pursuing a BA in print journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and a minor in sustainability. My parents are both in the medical field. They have traveled around the globe to give medical care, and have inspired me to play my part and do some volunteering of my own


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I am a sophomore studying Sustainability with a minor in Justice Studies and a certificate in Cross-Sector Collaboration. My life motto is “kindness matters”, and I’m passionate about making the world a better place for everyone I love (and even the people I don’t). I feel called to serve especially in terms of environmental volunteering because the planet is in dire straits right now, and I believe that a relationship with nature is vital for a healthy and happy life. Without the earth, there’s no place for all the people I love to live!


Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetMy name is David Kwabena Nkansah I, and I am a fourth year Genetics and Cell Developmental Biology/Neuroscience Major from Ghana, West Africa. Coming to America in 2010 exposed me to a wealth of knowledge and experiences. Notable among them is the first time I observed microbes using a microscope in a lab. This opened my eyes to a very pertinent problem back home, which is the lack of practical S.T.E.M education, especially at the middle and high school levels. I teamed up with a few of my colleagues from Ghana to establish Dext Technologies Ltd. and The Global Heroes Initiative, our non profit arm to help bring practical science education, innovation and volunteerism to every child. Please learn more at http://www.dextusa.com


Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetHello! My name is Madison Bennett. I am a junior transfer majoring in sustainability. I was born and raised in Colorado Springs, Colorado. My passion to serve sprouted from my love of the outdoors that was instilled in my from a young age. Because I lived in such a beautiful place that was heavily centered around outdoor activities, I learned that preserving the natural landscape is necessary in order to continue the lifestyle that so many people love. I am extremely thankful that I had the opportunity to grow up in Colorado, it has definitely helped guide me to find my passion of environmental and wildlife conservation.


Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetMy name is Susie Puga. I am a sophomore majoring in sustainability with a minor in urban planning and a certificate in cross-sector collaboration. My passion to serve stems from my complete love of people. I believe in both doing my best remedy present ailments of society while working to solve the root of the problem. I believe serving communities helps fix the present issues affecting people. I hope that my career path will allow me to fix some of the roots of society’s ailments. Service has opened my heart up even more than i thought it could and brought me to some of the most amazing people. I am so glad I have so many opportunities to partake in it.


Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetHi, I’m Savannah and I am a freshman at Barrett studying business communications! My passion to serve sprouted from volunteering at a neighborhood clean-up in Peoria, Arizona. When I saw the impact that a small group could make within a few hours, I knew that I wanted to make a difference in my community by continuing to serve. Since then, I have had the opportunity to volunteer with various food and clothing banks as well as with the Boy Scouts of America. As much as I love to see the impact in the community, I also really love to be able to reflect on the progress I have been able to make in myself through these experiences.


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I am a freshman and my major is Business Communications. I have been on volunteer service trips to Guatemala, Ecuador, and India. I love being a part of service trips and service projects, because in every trip or project I participate in, I feel I grow as a person and learn more about the world. I am really passionate about sustainability and I am learning a lot about conservation of natural resources in the Sustainable Cities class I am currently taking. I am super excited for this trip to Catalina Island!

Why Catalina Island?

By: Sami Mooney, DSC President

There are many factors to be considered when deciding a service location for one of our trips. We raise many questions while vetting the non profits we come across. Will this be somewhere students will be interested in going to? Is the service unique to the community? Will our students learn something new about the topic we’re addressing? Beyond that, we must also research the non profit itself. Is it well known in the community? Does their mission statement match the work they’re doing? Are their services community initiated and driven?

After answering all of these important questions, we decided that Catalina Island Conservancy was our favorite option for fall break.

Catalina Island Conservancy’s mission is, “To be a responsible steward of our lands through a balance of conservation, education and recreation.” The organization has been around since 1972 (45 years), and has worked to protect 88% of the island.

We believe in the balance that the Catalina Island Conservancy works towards. We believe sustainability means people are able to enjoy the environment while not compromising it. Catalina Island is a great place to teach this. Since this is a location that over 1 million people come to visit each year, it is possible for the environmental damage to become irreparable. We must help to clean up the environment and also use this experience to educate others.
We will be practicing what we learn on the trip. We will be taking as much of a zero waste trip as possible. We are bringing reusable plates, utensils and cups. Each night following our service we will be coming up with new ways to make an even lesser impact on the environment.

Our participants will be impacted in several different ways. For some of our students, sustainability is a major part of their daily routines and decisions. For others, working to become more sustainable will be a large take home lesson from this opportunity. While you can watch documentaries and read news reports about how our environment is suffering, actually being the one to pick up the trash and also to see in person how its impacting wildlife is completely different. This fall break our participants will experience first hand the detrimental impact that careless behavior can have on the environment,  and learn how they can make changes in their life to help!