An update from Erika, senior political science and public policy major:

Hello all! I apologize that those of us on the Tennessee trip have been less than faithful about our blogging. We’ve been hard at work, and it’s been difficult to find the time to provide these updates! Nonetheless, here we are, and I have to say … spring break in Tennessee has exceeded all of my expectations!

I went to Taos last year, so I had no doubt that this trip would be fun, educational, and rewarding. However, I’ve been blown away once again by the caliber of SMU students on this trip, the fun we’ve had, and the excitement of the overall experience here at Once Upon A Time.

I want to take this opportunity to say the following – if you’ve never been on an Alternative Spring Break trip with SMU, you’re missing out! Please consider going on a trip next year … you won’t regret it.

OK … back to Tennessee. I’m supposed to update you on what we’ve been doing, so here goes …

On Tuesday we headed out to a Cherokee community in North Carolina called Little Snowbird. The drive was a beautiful scenic route bordered by the Cherokee National Forest on one side and the Smoky Mountain National Park on the other. Our fearless leader, Kat, drove us through 11 miles of over 300 curves … a road known to locals as “The Dragon.” It was kind of amazing.

When we got to Little Snowbird, our group (along with the other universities here – Longwood University, University of Tampa and Cazenovia College) split into three groups and served at the Senior Citizens Center and the Child Development Center and picked up rocks at a local park. We later carried dozens and dozens of bags of trash off of a woman’s property; due to some previous tenants who had been completely irresponsible, there was garbage everywhere in her backyard. This included things as big as couches and swing sets! As a group, we cleared all of this out … the finished product was wonderful to see.

Later that afternoon we played a traditional Cherokee game that involved semi-Lacrosse sticks, boys vs. girls, a fish on a tall pole, a small ball and literally no rules. It was a bit violent, but lots of fun. We then played endless rounds of Taboo and spent the night at the Little Snowbird Baptist Church.

The next morning (Wednesday) our group went to a woman’s home and ripped off old gutters (much more difficult than it sounds), spackled and painted a room. In the afternoon, we went for a hike in the beautiful Joyce Kilmer National Forest and forded a stream that was crystal clear. It was beautiful.

I drove the team back through the Dragon to Ed and Arlene’s, where we currently remain. That takes us through last night, but does not include today, our glorious free day … which is where the spelunking comes in. But I’m going to leave that to Jose.

For now, know this … we’re having a wonderful time serving these people in Tennessee. We’ve learned a lot, worked hard, and had a great time doing it. I’ve got to go to a bonfire in the mountains to make s’mores now … how amazing is that?

Thanks for reading!