Rather than soaking up rays on a beach in Florida, eight NIU students spent their spring break helping Living Lands and Waters clean up one of the world’s most famous waterways, the Mississippi River.
Living Lands sponsored the clean-up in Memphis, hosting students from NIU and 15 other universities across the country.
The students spent seven-hours a day pulling all sorts of junk from the river and its banks. Children’s toys, car tires and appliances were some of the most common finds. The students also found two cars. As junk was pulled from the river, it was ferried to a barge in jon boats.
By the end of the week, the students had collected nearly 50,000 pounds of trash.
This was the second time that trip leader, Nathan Tripp, had participated in the event. He went back not just because he has been a longtime believer in cleaning up the environment, but because he admires the work and enthusiasm of Living Lands and Waters.
“A lot of organizations do clean up work,” said Tripp, a senior sociology major who plans to enroll in the NIU public administration program next year to learn about running not-for-profit agencies, “but this one is so good at getting people motivated, I wanted to bring a group here to see them in action.”
The co-leader on the trip, Allison Dunnington, 20, of Palatine, who is majoring in geology, also got some out-of-the-classroom learning on the trip. “The trip really focused on conservation and keeping the land healthy, which is an important part of any environmental science,” she said.
Of course, the trip wasn’t all muddy water and trash bags. At night, the students explored the culinary delights of the Memphis barbecue scene and enjoyed the music on Beale Street.
“It was a great trip,” Tripp said. “We did some service while having a lot of fun.”