James Madison University has the distinction of being the first returning group of Alternative Spring Breakers –post Michael. The manager and staff at the Preserve were excited to have this lively group for a week.

“They were a delightful group this year,” says Buffer Preserve Manager, Dylan Shoemaker. “Their enthusiasm was outstanding, and we had to work hard to keep them busy. Having extra boots on the ground is always a plus for the Buffer.”

Wondering what ASB – Alternative Spring Break means?

It denotes a group of dedicated current college students and at least one faculty member who volunteer at their selected location with the exclusion of alcohol, and drugs. This group in 2020 spent the week as vegetarians. It was interesting to see their commitment is all areas.

James Madison University is a public research university located in Harrisonburg, VA. It began as the State and Normal and Industrial School for Women then was renamed Madison College and then in 1977 renamed a final time to James Madison University. The Buffer is thankful to have had three groups from the university in the past years.

It was an inspiring week at the Buffer Preserve with a group of very excited and energetic students. It’s not the first group and we certainly hope it’s not the last. Every task assigned to them was completed in record time with expectations of more to do. They certainly kept staff on their toes the entire week. Their working and helping sometimes were in places on the Preserve that the average visitor would not see, however, they were important to the restoration and preservation efforts on the Preserve.

The board president of the Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves, Lynda White, is a graduate of James Madison University. She delights in visiting with the students and relating different stories from her days at JMU and enjoying hearing about all the changes now.

Each year holds a surprise for both Lynda and the students as they mingle, talk and reminisce. “It’s always a nice surprise to learn that students from my Alma Mater discover the treasures we have in our area. Seeing how intense they are and how motivated to become stewards of the land makes me very proud,” White said.

This year’s group said in a signed card, “Thank you for allowing us to stay on the beautiful Preserve. Your hospitality was amazing, and this spring break was better than any of us expected. We had an incredible experience and hope our help made as large of an impact on the Preserve as it did on us. We appreciate your openness to allow us to see into your community and have learned a lot about appreciating our environment and all it provides.’

Staff at the Preserve understands what a help it is to have these students come and stay each spring. Each year they look forward to having these students. So . . . until next year when hopefully we will have more students from colleges and universities volunteer their spring break at the Preserve, we smile and remember the hard work and dedication of the outstanding group of 2020.