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Elizabeth Blank, 3L's picture

Elizabeth Blank is a Rhode Island native who grew up on Aquidneck Island. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in biology from Boston University. After graduation, she worked as a Commercialization Analyst at a technology transfer consulting firm in Providence. Currently a third year law...

Elizabeth Blank, 3L's Post

ASB (Alternative Spring Break)

Posted by Elizabeth Blank on 01/31/2013 at 12:46 PM

With spring break 2013 on the horizon, I have been feeling nostalgic about my wonderful experiences from spring break 2012. Last year, I participated in an Alternative Spring Break Program, interning with United Mountain Defense (UMD) in Knoxville, Tennessee. This non-profit organization is dedicated to protecting Tennessee’s watersheds, air, mountains, and people.  The trip proved to be an amazing life experience that was not only educational, but also fun.

This is not to say that I did not have some serious reservations going into this trip. For starters, a 30-hour round-trip drive was not something I was looking forward to. It took approximately 15 hours to drive from Bristol to Knoxville, not including a brief night stay in Maryland. We started our internship the morning after our arrival in Knoxville.

As a legal intern, I mapped potential sampling locations for field staff to test for Clean Water Act violations and authored dossiers for prospective citizen suit litigation, a key component toward furthering UMD’s mission. The staff attorneys and the paralegals were always there to answer questions and were supportive of our work as well as our level of legal understanding. In addition to our legal work throughout the week at the UMD office, we were also able to get out into the field. We toured a reclaimed mountain site in the Southeastern Appalachia. There, our supervising attorney and environmental advocate showed us the destruction that coal mining has had on this environment. Our tour of an active mine site was also guided by an Appalachian root digger who works to restore communities and advocate for the rights of mountains. This Appalachian advocate offered valuable insight into the ways in which mining has negatively affected her community.

With days spent in the UMD office and out in the ‘field’ we had ample time to explore Knoxville.  We participated in a trivia night, sampled local fare, and even attended an open radio show during our lunch break. Furthermore, the warmer temperature in Knoxville was a welcome change to the oftentimes-harsh Bristol spring.  We took advantage of this warm weather by walking from the hostel to our internship and into downtown as often as possible.

The ability to work with a non-profit at a grass-roots level was an eye-opening experience. I highly encourage anyone who is looking to fulfill his or her public service requirement or to have a memorable spring break to consider participating in this program.