Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Leadership lived: Student helps Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria as part of Alternative Spring Break

Senior business administration major Matthew Traxler was one of 14 University of Illinois Springfield students who spent their spring break in Puerto Rico helping the U.S. territory recover from Hurricane Maria.

It was the first time Traxler had flew on a plane and the first time he took part in a large scale volunteer effort.

“We focused a lot on conservation,” he said. “We learned when we got there that a lot of efforts when natural disasters happen are focused on houses and rebuilding structures, which is important, but we found out that a lot of efforts aren't focused at all on the conservation.”

Traxler and fellow UIS students helped to clean up shorelines, trails and bike paths. They also helped to rebuild a Montessori school that was damaged by the storm.

“The real impact was on the second day, the last day we worked on the school, when we were leaving,” he said. “As we pulled away, the principal turned around and walked away and you could see her wiping tears away for her eyes and in that moment it was real.”

On campus, Traxler is a member of the Phi Kappa Tau Zeta Zeta Chapter where he also serves as recruitment chair. He is the entertainment chair for the Dance Marathon, a fundraiser for the Children’s Miracle Network, and president of the UIS Disc Golf team.

The Philo, Illinois native says the chose the University of Illinois Springfield because it is affordable and offers a University of Illinois degree.

“I'm glad I came to UIS,” he said. “There are plenty of other opportunities out there, but I do think that UIS was the best opportunity for me.”

Traxler says he’s made lifelong friends at UIS and feels he’s grown as a person.

“I think this school is great to kind of get out of your comfort zone, give you an opportunity to get involved with organizations and build your leadership skills,” he said.

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