Travel Day: 1st Ever International CALUE Service Break

I am excited to announce that CALUE Service Breaks has began their first International Service Break! We are a group of 5 TTU students (Kennadee, Ahalee, Jesus, Alyssa, Taylor) and 2 CALUE staff members myself (Jacy), and (Jerylme). We couldn’t be any more ready to dive into everything Costa Rica! We started the day off by departing Lubbock around 12:30. We had a slight delay but nothing that affected our connecting flights. We made it to DFW in plenty of time to eat a quick lunch and prepare for our 4.5 hour flight to San Jose, Costa Rica! The flight went smoothly and our group seemed to have a mixture of those who slept, read, or watched the flight movie, “Hidden Figures.” We arrived in the San Jose Airport and I immediatly felt my hair begin to poof, humidity is in full force here in Costa Rica but it is also the perfect temperature in the evening so you won’t hear any complaining from me! It took a minute to figure out how to fill out the paperwork in order to go through customs but we finally passed with flying colors and made our way to the exit. Here we met some of our Costa Rica partners, Mauricio Gaberto (Director of ACI, who will be leading our two day orientation), German Monge (our tour guide for our entire trip), Katherine Kenyon (ACI volunteer), and Oldemar Alvarez (our fabulous driver)! We had quick introductions and made our way to a very large mall to have a quick bite to eat…Mauricio assured us that after this “fast food” meal we would be getting the “real” Costa Rica experience, but since we are Americans we must love fast food! He also said this will be a great topic to discuss later about stereotypes! We got back on our short bus to go to our “orientation camp” location Monte Campana. We are excited to see the city in the day but so far the nighttime is beautiful. From our rooms we have a great view of the lights of San Jose. We will be here for two days before we travel to Junquillal Beach to begin our service work with Sea Turtle Conservation Project. I am excited about this International SB, and I hope that our readers will visit this blog to hear from our students about what they learn and experience! Until tomorrow have a great night! FullSizeRender.jpg


That’s a Wrap! CALUE SB 17′: Grand Canyon 

I am writing this in a car being serenaded by Claudio. My week in the Grand Canyon National Park was nothing short of amazing. I’ve loved getting to know all the wonderful people who came here with me, there wasn’t a dull moment all week. The people we met while at the park taught us so much about not only the National Park Service and the Grand Canyon, but also their history, the behind-the-scenes aspects, and A LOT about parking. A special shout out to Jamie and Pam for making our time in the Canyon so enjoyable and giving us the chance to make a difference in the park by walking around parking lots all day. It’s awesome to see how much work goes into the park to make it what it is- concessions contracts, asset management, volunteer services, parking and bus systems, and so much more we didn’t get the chance to delve into. I couldn’t have given my time to a better cause this spring break and I will remember the memories, people, and most importantly, the candid pictures for the rest of my life. 

CALUE Spring SB 17′: Grand Canyon Day 6

Friday was our last official day of volunteering and it could not have ended any other better way. We started off the morning with a talk about special use permits, commercial use authorizations, what circumstances require one, and the challenges the Commercial Services department faces with these requests. Once it was time, we split into our pairs and went to our designated parking lots. For majority of the day, it was pretty relaxed and not too much traffic. At the end of our work day, we came together and discussed any suggestions, improvements, or advice on how the park can get a better handle on the parking situation. After saying our goodbyes to Pam, we made some quick stops to several gift shops. 

I ended up buying a Swiss Army knife with my name engraved on the side. During the week, I also bought a pin with the Desert View watchtower, South Kaibab Trail sticker, and Grand Canyon postcard. The pin and sticker were for the places we visited and hiked. As for the postcard, I had all my friends, Todd, and Jamie sign it for a keepsake. Once we arrived back to our cabin, Todd arrived and initiated us as Junior Park Rangers with a shield and patch. It was a bit emotional. He also gifted each of us with a photo of ourselves on Monday overlooking the canyon with written messages from all the employees we met through the week. 

The staff at the park are for sure the best people I have ever worked along with. They made my first visit to the Grand Canyon an unforgettable one. The dedication and passion they have for their work is an inspiration, and I can only hope that I will have a career that brings out the best of me as it does for them. If you are ever in need of a place to volunteer your time and enjoy the sights while doing it, I would strongly encourage you to choose the Grand Canyon National Park as your destination. 


CALUE Spring SB 17′: Grand Canyon Day 5

Today, we learned all about the building management here in the park before we started our shifts. Basically, the goal of the park is to preserve the style and materials of the original buildings that currently exist rather than improving them or changing anything to make them more efficient. And of course that makes sense, as the entire point of the National Park is to preserve the environmental and cultural resources in the park as well as providing for the enjoyment of the public for many many generations to come. During my time here, I learned about just how deep this goal goes.

 A lot of people don’t think about that aspect of the park; Grand Canyon is widely considered as just another hot vacation spot. In reality though, so much goes into the maintenance of the park, more than I can talk about here. The park was founded in order to protect this million-mile wide area of our Earth and it has such an intense history behind it. Using the buildings that we learned about today as examples, the Hopi House and the El Tovar Hotel, these were built around one hundred years ago. People just like you and me made those, used them, saw them, all throughout most of the 20th century and today. I honestly hadn’t considered how real that was until this volunteering trip. We toured the Kolb Studio yesterday (a house built just under the rim of the Canyon, it was the home of Emery Kolb who took pictures of visitors who rode on Bright Angel trail on mules) and saw pictures of people over time… soldiers in the 40s, hippies in the 70s, etcetera. We walked through the house where many Presidents had walked through before, where the same furniture still stands. I was so encaptivated by it all.

As for the volunteering service, I’ve never really participated in a volunteering job this serious before. As we met the Park staff every day, they expressed such great gratitude that we came and gave our time to work for the Park. To hear them say that just filled me with pride. This wasn’t some Spring Break vacation, we were helping one of the many National Parks and making their jobs a little bit easier.

All in all, if you’re reading this, go out and volunteer. Learn about others’ perspectives. Explore. Find your value and put it to good use. I’m both glad and extremely thankful that I had the opportunity to come along on such an amazing trip.


CALUE Spring SB 17′: Grand Canyon Day 4

This trip overall had been an inspiring volunteer opportunity. Though braving parking lot duty at a very well known national park may seem difficult for most people, we on this trip are doing fantastic at all our duties! Today was, what we called, our free day. It all started off with our entire group meeting up in a conference room to speak to the man second in charge, right under the superintendent, of Grand Canyon National Park.Brian Drapeaux is the deputy superintendent of the Grand Canyon. He brought together all of this week’s college volunteers from not only Texas Tech, but two other universities as well. He answered many of our questions, along with giving us a very inspirational speech of how we are helping the park and how we are having a bigger impact than we think. He also told us about how we need to realize each of our own values. He said:

“I want to help people realize their value and embrace it.”
He continued to tell us many other interesting stories to get us thinking about the park as a whole along with teaching us a bit about his native heritage. 

After the meeting, we were taken to one of the Grand Canyon’s iconic historic landmarks called Kolb Studio. We took a tour of the studio and the home underneath. Phil Payne, our tour guide, took us back into the world of Elmsworth and Emory, the brothers who made Kolb Studio their home in the early 1900’s. Phil made this tour extra special since he told us that after working at the park for six years, our tour was his last tour since he and his wife are going back on the road to travel. 

After the tour, mentally traveling back into the modern day, we went back to our residence in the park to grab a quick lunch and snacks for our adventurous endeavor. We were going to hike into the canyon!

To get into the canyon we parked and took a bus out to the South Kaibab Trail. As we got to the trail head, many of us looked down, nervous about our idea to hike, but we started off in bravery. The hike itself was difficult, but worth it. The sights were gorgeous. It gave us a different perspective than before. We were so tiny compared to the grandiose rock walls towering above. 

After the hike, we were all mostly exhausted, but we made a point to go watch the sunset near Desert View.

As we got there and watched the sunset, we were all in a calming state. The yellows and oranges reflected on the sandstone walls of the cliffs, and they shimmered in the glowing light. The canyon itself darkened in a deepening melody of shades of purples and blues. As the sun disappeared on the horizon, we headed back to our residence to end what was a fantastic and inspiring day.


CALUE Spring SB 17′: Grand Canyon Day Day 4:

On Wednesday March 15 we met with deputy superintendent Brian Drapeaux. His words rang strong and true and inspired me greatly. His quote “Don’t let being humble anchor you” stood out to me the most. I believe this was very influential and great words to live by. Often times, we find ourselves focusing heavily on our faults and not directing enough attention to our accomplishments. Deputy superintendent Brian, however makes it his mission to find these hidden jewels who work for him and teach them to stand with their heads held tall. Though many people don’t wish to showcase their talents it is important to be proud of yourself to develop fully and holistically. His words have taught me that it is necessary to own your skills. To be proud of yourself and not shy away from who you are. By setting this example within himself, he also leads by example. He builds up those around him and maximizes their talents. This leads to a more productive and overall positive experience for his workers and for those like me who have had the pleasure of talking with him.


CALUE Spring SB 17′: Grand Canyon Day 3

Today was our first day on the job! I think we were all a little nervous to get out into the parking lots, but it ended up being a successful day. Our day began with an education session at Grand Canyon Commercial Services. Commercial Services, in short, oversees the businesses and services who have contracts with the park. As a future law student, learning about the legalities and contracts was something I found interesting. After our education sessions, we made our way out to the lots! I was lucky enough to enjoy the calm and beautiful lot at Yavapai this morning. The views at Yavapai may be the best I’ve seen so far. Since there was not much traffic at Yavapai in the morning, my partner Lexi and I had an opportunity to see the Geology Museum and chat with visitors on the trails. I was sad to leave the Yavapai lot because I knew the Visitor Center would be intense. Even with all of the stress and initial confusion, volunteering in the parking lots turned out to be surprisingly fun. I helped a few tourists, met some TTU alumni, and could overall see what impact we were having on the visitor experience. I have never thought about how important the parking lots are to the overall experience of visiting the Grand Canyon, but now I realize the work we are doing is truly providing to the public. I am looking forward to the rest of the week!
-Alex Marie