A Day in The Life of an AmeriCorps Leader: Alternative Spring Break by Demetrius Sudduth-Peterson

April 15, 2022
Demetrius is an AmeriCorps Leader serving at Montana Technological University with The Institute for Educational Opportunities

As my second blog 4 months into my first term as an AmeriCorps Leader, I have happy adventures to share after climbing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid; Survival, Safety, Belonging, Esteem, and Self-Actualization. My first blog post revolved around adjusting and relocating from Chicago, Illinois to Butte, Montana. Here at Montana Technological University’s Institute for Educational Opportunities, I am now experiencing the rewarding phase of service while serving with students that are members of the TRIOS and Upward Bound programs. The past weekend, I had the opportunity to travel with these students and staff to Pocatello, Idaho where we toured the campus of Idaho State University and engaged in some fun STEM experiments and activities.

Day one I was skeptical, because I have not met most of the high school students yet. We took a bus load, which were a mix of students from Helena and Butte High Schools. The vibe turned out naturally smooth due to wonderful staff organizing and amazing student personalities. The students immediately started to share with me about their high school adventures such as prom and colleges they are ready to commit for admissions. I then could share with them my high school to college stories, which sort of took me down memory lane. I found myself motivating the students to join as many organizations as college freshman to start meeting new friends. These conversations started to build a bond and before I knew it, I started to know the students by names and their personal stories.

Students arriving at Idaho State University

Once we arrived on Idaho State University’s campus, the first activity was the cadaver labs. I personally never been inside cadaver labs, so to see high school students have this opportunity was impressive. The students and professors from Idaho State went into deep explanations of different organs they had openly laid for us to touch and feel. For example, we were able to physically feel (with our hands) diseased liver organs vs healthy liver organs. Some of the hearts had pacemakers still attached. Some joints such as knees and shoulders had surgical replacements inside of them. These specimens opened up exciting conversations for the students to ask questions.

Students in the biology lab as ISU

From here we explored a day in the life of a biological research lab where a professor researched nerve signals and the proteins that differentiated diseased vs healthy signal transmissions. This lab was more chaotic with chemicals and lab papers all over the place as the professor was explaining sometimes it takes a little insanity or geekiness to hunt for scientific answers. One student bumped into a cooler which actually had live frogs inside of it. His point was explaining that scientist have all kinds of different personalities as long as they have the passion and desire to solve issues that can help mankind.

A professor demonstrates in the physics lab at ISU

Lastly, the students spent time in a physics lab where the professor would demonstrate different laws of physics such as concerts of force and friction. Our students had the task of constructing a rocket where the pilot was a raw egg. The goal was to blast the rocket into a brick wall without the egg breaking. The students used all kinds of random materials to protect their egg around a plastic 2-liter bottle; aka the rocket ship. Groups went outside where the professor set up a pressurized air launcher which shot the rocket full blast into the brick wall. The students that successfully protected their egg/pilot won a prize at the end.

This trip was definitely a highlight of my service experience and has me looking forward to our summer academies that these same students will participate in on Montana Technological University’s campus for 6 weeks. I remember when I went on campus tours and summer STEM camps when I was in high school and it made all the difference towards being motivated to go off to college. With that being said, serving as an AmeriCorps Leader come with experiences and adventures that has influence in other people lives directly which is rewarding knowing our service contributes to positive outcomes!