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Stockdale Fellows bond during trip to clean the Mississippi

Barry McNamara
Pictured from left are Brennan Towery ’20, Lily Lindner ’20, Mary Kate Luzzo ’18, Quinton Kaihara ’20, Lexi Brauer ’20 and Joe Doner ’21.
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – The Mississippi River is a little cleaner and Monmouth College’s Stockdale Fellows are a lot closer after an Alternative Spring Break trip to Grafton, Ill.

Assistant Director of Leadership and Service Jake McLean led the March 3-8 trip, which saw the Monmouth students working with Living Lands and Waters, a river clean-up organization based in Moline, Ill.

“It was an opportunity to do a week of service instead of hanging out on the beach,” said McLean. “We traded in warmer temperatures for life vests and lots of layers to go and do some service.”

In addition to the river clean-up, the group also was involved in a restoration project at Pere Marquette State Park, where they painted youth cabins.

“What I hoped that the students would take away is first to be more conscious of what you’re doing in your environment,” said McLean. “We picked up a lot of trash, and there’s only more out there because we didn’t get it all in our week. Secondly, I wanted the Stockdale Fellows to come closer together as a unit.”

Now in its second year, the James and Sybil Stockdale Fellows Program involves high-achieving 36 students. A total of 28 made this year’s ASB trip. The sophomores in the group took a leadership trip to Washington, D.C., during last year’s spring break.

“The Stockdale Fellows Program, at its center, is focused on leadership, and one of the essential elements of leadership is service,” said McLean. “Students being able to engage with what they’ve learned in the fall from our leadership training program and then taking that and doing service in their community – whether we do that locally or on a national trip – makes a big difference for them. They can see leadership at work.”

Stockdale Fellow Lexi Brauer ’20 of Springfield, Ill., said the ASB trips have two great benefits.

“It was a really rewarding experience, getting your hands dirty and making a difference,” said Brauer, a biology major.

Brauer said she also enjoyed “bonding with the other Fellows, especially since we just picked up an entirely new class of them.”

“A lot of times, our bonding is through the craziest parts of the trip – all the goofy little hiccups is when we all come together,” she said. “You can’t help but laugh about it and build these relationships that turn into really close friendships.”

Elisabeth Riedesel ’21, an astrobiology major from Davenport, Iowa, agreed.

“I feel like I really connected my other Stockdale Fellows and with the other groups that were there,” she said.

Joe Doner ’21, an international studies and environmental studies double major from Arlington Heights, Ill., appreciated the opportunity to be involved in a project related to his studies.

“I learned a lot about environmentally related topics,” he said. “I learned how to live on a barge, which was interesting to see. Doing this really helped focus me and re-center why I’m going to school for what I’m going to school for.”

Doner said the College’s leadership program has also helped him sharpen other skills.

“Being a Stockdale Fellow has really helped me grow my communication skills and grow my skills as a leader,” he said. “It’s helped me learn how to better relate with other people.”

Despite working outside in below-normal temperatures for early March, the Stockdale Fellows said they enjoyed the experience.

“I would do it in a heartbeat again,” said Nick Thomas ’21, a music performance major from Elmhurst, Ill.

“It’s safe to say that they’ve built some bonds that won’t go away any time soon,” said McLean.