Indiana State University Newsroom

Animal rescue facilities, Selma, Ala. among Alternative Spring Break destinations

March 27, 2015

A dozen Indiana State University students spent their spring break in Florida but never made it to the beach. Instead, they helped out at a pet rehabilitation facility, a wildlife center and an equine rescue ranch.

Another group gave up fun in the sun to immerse themselves in the history of the civil rights movement.

"Every day had something memorable," sophomore Calen McDonald of Terre Haute said of her Alternative Spring Break to central Florida. "The opportunity to work with animals that would be in a zoo is not something you get to do every day."

The pre-dentistry student and her fellow Sycamores interacted with lemurs, kangaroos, a zebra, kinkajou and Asian deer at Exotic Animal Experience in Orlando, cleared a wooded area for a new wallaby and kangaroo enclosure at Arnold's Wildlife Center in Okeechobee and completed a variety of tasks for the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando before wrapping up the week at DreamCatcher Horse Ranch and Rescue Center in Clermont.

"We got to make a lasting impact on each of these sites," said junior Dillion Killion of Sullivan, an operations and supply chain management major. "The effects of what we manufactured there are going to last for years to come."

In addition to clearing dozens of trees at Arnold's, students cleaned out an old storage shed filled with 70 cages, cut down bushes and reorganized a shed that hadn't been touched in years. They built, irrigated and planted organic garden beds at the Pet Alliance and created 50 mobiles for cat cages. At DreamCatcher, they cleaned feed stalls; fed, watered and groomed horses; and cleaned bridles and were rewarded with the opportunity to ride a horse in the practice arena.

While their labor was intense, "when you have a group of students that are getting to know one another and have the same passions, it's not work. It's fun and educational. Time goes by really quick and we want more work," McDonald said.

"I don't think of it as work. I was like, ‘Give me more,'" Killion added. "I want to make a difference."

McDonald and Killion found their efforts on behalf of Arnold's Wildlife Center to be especially rewarding because the facility has only three staff members.

The tasks Indiana State students completed at Arnold's "would have taken them a month (or longer)," McDonald said.

In addition to dentistry, McDonald hopes to work as an animal rehabilitator.

"Getting my foot in the door to work with different types of animals is a good opportunity and to stay involved with other students makes a difference," she said.

For Indiana State student Klaudia Rogers and university staff member Shetina Jones, the choice to spend spring break in Alabama, epicenter of the 1960s civil rights movement, was personal.

"What inspired me to go on this alternative spring break was the fact that this is Selma," said Rogers, a sophomore from East Chicago. Rogers and Jones, a Detroit native, chose Selma with the dual intention of connecting with their cultures and doing service. As a social work major and student affairs staff member, respectively, giving back is a passion built into their chosen fields.

Jonathan Ritch, a senior history major from Clarksville, Tenn., was attracted to Selma from a scholarly and a human perspective.

"For my final paper, I'm going to write over the three marches in Selma," he said "This way I (got) some firsthand experience. That and I absolutely believe in equality and that no one should ever be degraded or looked down upon for their race or any reason."

Jones said "we've had so many great moments of reflection-deep reflection on people's lives and where they are, and a lot of honesty about where they are now."

The spirit of the community's children most impacted Rogers.

"Selma is really impoverished, but the faith that the children acquired is mind-blowing. It's like they know their poverty but they're trying to do something about it," she said "They're trying to be the best that they can be, and that was the best thing to see because their energy touches other people and seeing that really uplifted my spirit... Being here is the best thing that's ever happened to me."

Jones described crossing the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge, scene of the 1965 "Bloody Sunday" civil rights march, was "one of the scariest and the (most fun) parts" of their trip.

"It did something to my soul to do that-thinking about that moment at that time and reflecting on the great strides that so many people made, that I could even get to that point-that was one of the most gratifying things," she said.

Ritch is considering internships and opportunities where he can further help Selma.

"We (were) not just spring-breakers or ISU students going on a trip," he said. "We are family."

Students also heard from Linda Lowery, who at 15 was the youngest participant in the Bloody Sunday March from Selma to Montgomery.

"She is amazing. She is my hero, Rogers said.

"She was a part of the movement when the students were being arrested three times a day. It was amazing to hear her talk about," Jones said. "It reminded me that I stand on the backs of giants."

Photo: - Indiana State University student Breena Miller feeds a horse March 20, 2015 at DreamCatcher Horse Ranch and Rescue Center in Clermont, Fla. Awaiting their turn with the horse are students Parish Jones and Calen McDonald

Photo: - Indiana State University students plant organic garden plots at the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando in Sanford, Fla., March 18, 2015 during an Alternative Spring Break trip.

Photo: - Indiana State University students gather March 20, 2015 at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., scene of the 1965 "Bloody Sunday" civil rights march.

Contact: Jennifer Christian, Sycamore Service Corps director, Center for Community Engagement, Indiana State University, 812-237-7900 or

Writers: Kristen Kilker, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or; Dave Taylor, media relations assistant: Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or