March 13, 2012

Students spending spring break helping others

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- They could have spent spring break lounging on the beach or kicking back to relax but instead, dozens of Southern Illinois University Carbondale students joined together to head south to work hard helping others.

Southern Excursion, the 2012 Alternative Spring Break, began Monday, March 12, and continues through Sunday.  It is a week of intensive, sometimes physically taxing labor, giving a hand where badly needed while spreading the Saluki spirit.  The group’s first two days were in Nashville, Tenn., working at Walden’s Puddle, assisting with an ongoing beautification project for the nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation and education center.

Walden’s Puddle, online at, cares for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife at no charge and without federal or state funding.  It also serves as a wildlife education center. 

Wednesday, it’s on to Atlanta for the students.  They’ll spend two days there working with the non-profit organization Books for Africa (  The goal of the organization is ending the ‘book famine’ in Africa.  Since 1988 it has provided more than 24 million high-quality text and library books to children and adults in 46 African countries.

The final two days will be in Orlando, Fla., working with Mending Hearts Charities ( on a rehabilitation center construction project.  Mending Hearts is a non-profit organization that provides affordable housing to low-income and disabled people in the area while facilitating programs to improve the community and foster the neighborhood environment.

Sunday will be a travel day as the group returns to Carbondale to resume the spring semester classes.  Not only are the students dedicating their spring break days to give of their time and energy on behalf of others and worthwhile causes, they’re also paying their own way.  

“The Alternative Spring Break trip is a memorable experience for the students.  We hope that taking advantage of opportunities to support others in their time of need will heighten the students’ sense of reality and appreciation for the privilege that they each carry.  Our efforts are an attempt to show others what SIU Carbondale stands for and that our students have a passion for service and leadership,” said Ashley Grice, hall director for University Housing.

Participants in the 2012 Southern Excursion, listed by hometown with major and year where available, are:


            •  Ashlye Richardson, junior, psychology

Calumet Park

            •  LaShundra Patterson, sophomore, animal science


            •  Sok Keng Leung, not specified

•  Kiera Mallett, junior, special education

•  Alexander Martin, senior, computer science

            •  Carlos Smith, junior, history           


            •  Gina Destefano, junior, cinema and photography

            •  Rachel Homewood, junior, early childhood


            •  Melanie Colon, freshman, pre-major/undecided

            •  DeAndre Parker, junior, English

            •  Daniel Pierce, junior, hospitality and tourism administration

            •  Barbara Wilas, junior, speech communication

Chicago Heights

            •  Justice Moore, junior, accounting


            •  Krystal Norman, junior, undecided major in education and human services

East St. Louis

            •  Shalay Ray, junior, administration of justice


            •  Katelyn Haycock, junior, cinema and photography

Ford Heights

            •  Jackie Williams, junior, criminology and criminal justice


            •  Ross Smith, junior, criminology and criminal justice


            •  Shatoie Doyle, sophomore, undecided major in education and human services

Hazel Crest

            •  Lauren Adams, senior, computer engineering

Hoffman Estates

            •  Brittany Wardlow, junior, early childhood


            •  Danielle Gordon, junior, journalism


            •  Breana Spriggs, freshman, zoology

Morton Grove

            •  Hanneh Shiheiber, junior, special education

Oak Park

            •  Scott Fredrickson, senior, English

Park Forest

            •  Mary Crylen, junior, cinema and photography


            Marneathea McMichael, junior, history

River Forest

            •  Tanzania Adams, junior, pre-nursing/pre-professional

            •  Carrie Crawford, freshman, engineering


            •  Marvin Dixon, sophomore, speech communication

Sauk Village

            •  Kathryne Meyers, sophomore, pre-major/undecided


            •  Matthew Gunn, junior, pre-major/undecided


            •  Dante Leveritte, sophomore, radio-television


            •  Chelsea Laux, sophomore, engineering


•  Kelsey Guy, freshman, animal science


            •  Robert Forster, senior, radio-television


            •  Cassandra Likens, sophomore, journalism


            •  Colleen Kelley, junior, hospitality and tourism administration



            •  Ruth Suddarth, freshman, animal science



            •  Candace Neil, junior, early childhood

Accompanying the students are three University Housing hall directors.  They are Ashley Grice from Neely Hall; Jeremi Cheeks from University Hall and Katelyn Nolan, assistant hall director at Allen Hall.  Cheeks was also the primary organizer for the trip. 

Sponsors of Southern Excursion include University Housing, University Park Area Council, Residence Hall Association, Brush Towers Area Council and Universitee’s.