Thirty-two college students worked with the North Carolina Coastal Federation in March, dedicating their spring breaks to community service and coastal restoration. Read more about their hard work.


Nine students from Ithaca College traveled to the federation’s Wanchese office for the week of March 12.

Their first task of the week was to bag oysters for living shorelines. They also helped with rain garden maintenance at the Dare County’s Soil and Water office, First Flight Elementary School, First Flight Middle School and Manteo Middle School. While at Manteo Middle, the group also took time to talk to students.Sara Hallas, coastal education coordinator, said their maintenance work was especially crucial at Manteo Middle.

“The maintenance has become a bit too much for the middle schools students to handle on their own, and I’m grateful to have adults come through about once a year to do some heavy lifting, trimming, raking and sawing,” Hallas said.

The students also did a highway cleanup on the federation’s adopted portion of N.C. 245 and kept in good spirits despite the windy conditions.

Thursday was spent exploring the living shoreline at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. They assisted with repairs needed after the month’s storms, replacing trail markers and cleaning up debris that washed in. They also had the chance to do a little seining and learn about the inhabitants of the estuary they had been learning about all week.

Hallas said she was very impressed with their work throughout the entire week.

“They were all hard workers, despite being challenged with a strong, cold winds all week,” Hallas said. “They helped support each of the federation’s goals and had a very well-rounded week.

One afternoon of the week was also spent working with students from Appalachian that were being hosted by the Nature Conservancy. They helped with the rain garden maintenance at Manteo Middle and also spoke with students there.

“They were so appreciative to work with several community groups during their week here — us, the Nature Conservancy and National Park Service — and it really made for a more enjoyable experience for them, with a greater understanding of the coast,” Hallas said.

Check out these photos from their week of service.


Staff in Ocean hosted two spring break groups, one from East Carolina University (ECU) during the week of March 5 and one from Ohio State University (OSU) the week of March 12.

The seven ECU students and seven OSU students spent their trip doing trail maintenance, shoreline cleanups, education programs and building living shorelines.

Both groups performed trail maintenance at Patsy Pond Nature Trail, which is managed by the federation in cooperation with the Croatan National Forest. They also visited the North River Wetlands Preserve where they planted trees and worked on the section of the Mountains-to-Sea trail that runs through the preserve.

“We are currently working to connect this section of the MST trail to a more accessible point, and their work helped us move forward with this project,” said Rachel Bisesi, coastal education coordinator.

At Fort Macon, the students cleaned up the shoreline during both weeks. These cleanups were supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program.

The students also got out into the community for education programs. The ECU students went to the Morehead City Boys & Girls Club where the federation has been conducting regular education programs since 2017. The OSU students went to Jones Senior High School. During these lessons, both groups helped with oyster dissection programs led by Kristin Gibson, AmeriCorps member for the federation.

The students also helped with living shorelines work, both by bagging oyster shells and by putting the bags on a private shoreline. The ECU students spent time at Camp Albemarle helping bag shells and building the living shoreline that the federation is currently building at the camp. The next week, the OSU students bagged oyster shells and helped build a private living shoreline that is funded through the federation’s NOAA Coastal Ecosystem Resiliency Grant.cost-share program.

“We have a very busy but productive two weeks with the spring break groups,” Bisesi said. “Because of all of the extra help, we were able to do a lot of work in a short amount of time. Working with groups such as these always remind us how invaluable our volunteers are.”

Ashley Shepard, student lead for the ECU spring break trip, said she is passionate about service and enjoyed all parts of the spring break trip. This was her second year volunteering with the federation over spring break.

“Partnering with the North Carolina Coastal Federation for my last two spring breaks has been nothing less than amazing,” Shepard said. “Whether it was picking up litter at the marsh, to teaching some children how to shuck oysters, to creating a Living Shoreline or even the Mountains-to-Sea trail, I can honestly say that I’ve realized I’ve taken so many things for granted. Working as the student lead this year, I really realized that change lies within yourself.”

Check out these photos of their volunteer work.