By Dianne L. Anderson
Erica Durbin with one of the goats at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary
Erica Durbin is not your everyday college student. Then again, how many college students choose to spend their one week off from college for spring break mucking out a barn and barnyard, carrying bales of hay in the snow to feed farm animals and simply spending time with cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, sheep, and goats who have been rescued from cases of abuse, neglect and abandonment. Erica received a $480 scholarship stipend from the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation to travel with other students to Woodstock, NY, the town made famous for peace and music, to volunteer at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. The stipend covered travel, lodging and expenses for the week of service.
Erica, a Communications and Sociology major at the University of Colorado – Boulder (CU) works 20 -30 hours a week and more during the school semesters, allotting 95% of her pay for tuition, books and Phi Beta Pi dues. Despite her hectic schedule and financial pressures, service for the greater good has been an integral part of her young life.
Erica has been active with the Flatirons’ Habitat for Humanity, helping to build homes for those less fortunate who are local to her college community in Boulder, CO. She also works with CU Going Local, a group of college students who collaborate and advocate for “everything local” in Boulder, which takes her beyond the campus and to local businesses and restaurants. Through the MlK Dream Readers, in cooperation with Boulder elementary schools, Erica and her sorority sisters are reading and study buddies to youth. In conjunction with tutoring the students once or twice a week in areas of difficulty, Erica also acts as a mentor and encourages her young “buddies” to formulate dreams and goals for their lives.
Erica Durbin and her fellow volunteer students raking the muck in the barnyard at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary
She has also spearheaded recycling at her sorority where, with the help of a supportive “house mom”, recycling bins are now as prevalent as garbage bins within the house. Erica has also educated her chapter on annual food waste and the sorority sisters are now making an effort to take only helpings of food they can eat at mealtime and return to the kitchen later if still hungry.
Erica’s recycling efforts have also extended into the Office of Parent Relations where she works on the CU campus. “We no longer wheel tubs out to the garbage bin weekly as I recall doing frequently in my early employment”, said Erica. Through her efforts and with aid of another student worker, the Office has begun utilizing the mass-recycling services of the CU Environmental Club to shred and/or properly and efficiently reprocess expired files and documents. Material specific recycling receptacles are now utilized within the shared departments’ copy room. The office also no longer prints on certain types and colors of paper for their published documents, and have made sufficient “paperless” improvements, such as creating innovative social network accounts (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube-in progress, Flickr), to network information between the CU Office of Parent Relations and the parents.
Tossing down a bale of straw from the barn loft to spread as clean bedding for the animals
Of course, Erika is an animal lover and when she visits her mother in Evergreen, CO she and her young stepsiblings visit the Evergreen Animal Protective League during the play and adoptive hours, “to show some compassion to the furry residents.” Last year, Erika also applied for an Alternative Spring Break scholarship through the Casey Feldman Foundation and spent a week doing environmental conservation work on Catalina Island, CA to help restore the land and waters of the island.
When asked if she tires of so much volunteer activity, Erika replied in the negative adding, “My passion to advocate for the unheard and insufficiently represented strains within society have intensified for me, the more I do this kind of work. It has become a part of who I am.” Coupled with the successful recycling projects and environmental work, it is clear that Erika Durbin is one of those people who is making a positive impact on this world.
[Contribute to the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation so that other students may experience the rewards of an Alternative Spring Break.]
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