Return to Portfolio Home

Spring Break on Shelter Island

Posted: 03/20/2012

For a number of Skidmore students, this year’s spring break provided not only a respite from the rigors of academic life, but an opportunity to make a difference.

Ten made their way to Peru to volunteer with MedLife, helping to expand access to healthcare. Eight ventured to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to assist with post-tornado rebuilding efforts. Four volunteered with non-profit organizations right here in Saratoga Springs. And seven – hailing from China, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, and the American states of California, Texas, and New York – joined students from Syracuse University, Ithaca College, and the New School for a week of hands-on organic farming.

Led by Darren Drabek, academic counselor and international student coordinator, and Brian Woods, academic counselor, the trip centered on the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm, a former plantation dating back to 1652 that has been converted by the current owner to a CSA (community-supported agriculture).

In addition to learning about the manor’s rich history, students connected with the soil daily, starting at 7 a.m.  Supplementing the efforts of the farm’s regular crew, they mulched and planted fields, built a greenhouse, tilled soil, and performed the excavation necessary to build a concrete foundation for a new farm stand. The farm’s current director said that the work performed by the students in mulching alone saved the operation thousands of dollars.

The ten-day trip included what for several students was a first visit to Manhattan and a tour of the Wolffer Vineyard and Stables in East Hampton, where Peggy Lauber ’75 serves as national sales manager.  They stayed for several days at the Shelter Island home of Lois O’Rielly Kramer-Metraux P’94 and her husband Michel, which was owned by iconic American writer Leon Uris (Exodus, Trinity, Battle Cry) until his death in 2003.