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When class is out, Western New Mexico University students give back and explore.
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Throughout history, Western New Mexico University students have spent their free time lending helping hands and exploring the big, wide world. In keeping with the tradition of volunteering and learning even when class is out, Mustangs spent the recent spring break taking out-of-the-ordinary excursions with
  • Western New Mexico University’s Alternative Spring Break program,
  • Mustang Search and Rescue
  • and an Invertebrate Zoology class.
The students involved shared their experiences for this e-newsletter. 
Alternative Spring Break in the Dominican Republic
Service-Learning Abroad
Five students ventured to the Dominican Republic on Western New Mexico University’s second international Alternative Spring Break trip. The weeklong experience, organized by Department of Student Life and led by Student Activities Coordinator Katherine M. Warren, had students distributing food and supplies to impoverished communities, working in orphanages and assisted living facilities, leading sports clinics and educational programs at elementary schools, and taking cultural excursions.
“The most amazing thing I experienced was going to the orphanage and seeing a huge smile in every student. Getting to know them really touched me, and being able to share a few moments with them was priceless!”
— WNMU nursing student Miriam Flores
Western New Mexico University student Clarissa Lowry plays pat-a-cake with a student at the Fundacion Pasitos de Jesus orphanage for girls. 
ella habla español
[ M I R I A M ]

A Spanish-speaking student communicated and bonded with the locals on another level. "When we left the orphanage, a little girl wrote Miriam a note saying she wishes she had someone like Miriam in her life and wants a mom like Miriam,” Warren said.
[ S E R V I C E  L E A R N I N G ]

language and cultural immersion
+
community service
next-level alternative spring break
[ F U T U R E ]

Warren said this trip left a lasting impression on the participants and will be remembered as a significant part of each students’ college experience. She hopes to grow this experience into a for-credit class at Western New Mexico University. 
Wednesday, April 11.  6 p.m.  Miller Library.  Be there.
The students who participated in Alternative Spring Break are hosting a campus-wide presentation to share about their experiences.
“This trip made me want to be more adventurous.
— Benylene Whitehorse, Early Childhood Education major
Invertebrate Zoology in San Carlos, Mexico
Photo by Western New Mexico University invertebrate zoology student Raven Myers.
Camping on the Beach for Biology 310, 312
Since 2008, those enrolled in Dr. Manda Clair Jost’s Invertebrate Zoology class have spent spring break camping on a remote beach of the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez) between mainland Mexico and Baja. The wilderness beaches they explore are several miles north of San Carlos but difficult to get to and usually completely deserted. On this field trip, Invertebrate Zoology students witnessed the diversity of coastal marine invertebrates by exploring tide pools and snorkeling in the cold spring seawater. 
“The coolest experience I had during this trip was swimming in the clear ocean. After getting over my fear of drowning, I put on my snorkel mask and saw amazing things. I saw fish swimming and corals moving. I saw rocks and fish that look like rocks. I saw pufferfish and stingrays. I felt part of the ocean and it was awesome!”
— Salaya Torres, Zoology/Cell Molecular Biology


Photo by Raven Myers.
Photo by Western New Mexico University invertebrate zoology student Raven Myers.
Name: Marcus Bohlin

Major & minor: Zoology, Botany

Describe an experience you had during the field trip to San Carlos. On the last night, around 10 p.m., the ocean began to dimly light up every so often. There were tiny plankton in the water that exhibited bioluminescence and lit up when waves moved them.    

What academic concept was solidified for you on this trip? The amount of variety in what most people would consider simple animals.

Why do you think field trips like this are important for college students? There are some things that cannot be fully explained in a classroom, or lab, setting.
“On the last day of our camping trip, I went down to the sea to wash my plate. When I swished it around, the water glowed bright blue. I told everyone to come over and see this incredible phenomenon. Everyone was running in the water and splashing, making it glow even brighter.” 
— WNMU art and science student Raven Myers
Other Field Experiences with Natural Sciences
Students in Dr. Randy Jennings’ Herpetology course and in Dr. Jost’s Entomology course travel to the same region of Mexico. When Dr. Jost offers Marine Ecology in the summer, those classes spend two solid weeks studying fish, birds, mammals and invertebrates in San Carlos. 
Invertebrate Biology professor Dr. Manda Clair Jost created this video during a class field trip to San Carlos, Mexico. You could skip ahead to the two-minute mark for footage of students conducting research, but why? The scenery leading up to that point is worth taking in, especially on the day before a holiday weekend.
Mustang Search and Rescue 
Photo courtesy of Mustang Search and Rescue.
About Mustang SAR

The Mustang Search and Rescue (SAR) team was certified as an official resource by New Mexico State Police Search and Rescue in January 2017, so team members are eligible to participate in search and rescue missions run under the jurisdiction of New Mexico State Police. On missions, Mustang SAR team members will work with other state SAR teams to search for and rescue lost or injured subjects from the Gila backcountry.

Several Mustang SAR members are field certified, and others are in training. Mustang SAR is always interested in accepting new members who are willing to commit the time and effort necessary to train and participate in missions.

With questions, contact faculty advisor Marc Levesque at nmsar1207@gmail.com.
The Rabbit
Mustang Search and Rescue members Alex Dunning and Jeffrey Arrington were on the team that found the subject, Western New Mexico University web developer Sebastiano Marino (pictured), during the mock search in the Burro Mountains last Saturday, March 24. The team trekked about eight miles total.
Spring Break With Mustang SAR: K9 Training
On the first Saturday of spring break, a group of students in hiking gear and waterproof jackets met at the Continental Divide trailhead off Little Walnut Road. Sarah Crothers, co-captain of Mustang SAR, gathered everyone around and introduced the day’s training exercise, one focused on K9s. Of the six full members on Mustang SAR, two have dogs that are in differing stages of training. Both showed up on this rainy day.

Crothers divided the group into two teams (one for each handler/dog team) and then tasked “subjects” — other members — to do short runaways for the beginner dog and set up more advanced problems for the more advanced dog. Volunteers hiked up to 500 yards from the parking area and hid from the dogs, who then used their noses to find the victims under bushes, behind rocks and in arroyos.
[ T R A I N I N G  H I K E S ]

These Saturday group outings are open to all WNMU students, faculty and staff, even those who aren't interested in becoming official Search and Rescue team members. (Click on the date of each event for details.)
March 31: Easy 2-4 mile hike at Fort Bayard
April 7: Clue awareness training
April 14: Search and Rescue orientation class
April 21: Volunteer activities at Tour of the Gila bike race
April 28: Moderate 4-6 mile hike at Fort Bayard

WNMU students can rent hiking boots and packs from The Outpost at no charge. Call The Outdoor Program at 538-6253 with any questions.
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