SNC annual Africa trip offered in May

Students participate in two weeks of service learning abroad


Photo credit: Taylor Halsey

SNC students explored the Kruger National Park, where they were able to take images of wildlife, including elephants!

Whether it’s seeing penguins on Boulder Beach, or driving right up next to herds of elephants, giraffes, and cheetahs in Kruger National Park, Justin Spees and Steve Elsworth have done it all while taking students on the annual trip to South Africa, and this year promises more fun adventure and learning.

Every May, Sierra Nevada College students travel around South Africa for two weeks learning how to shoot wildlife photos, understand the African economy, and most importantly do service work.

“We work with the schools,” Justin Spees, chair of SNC’s business department said. “From orphanages to preschools, to primary and secondary schools. And we’ve built relationships with them over the years.”

While it may be one of the fastest growing economies in the world there are still many people in South Africa who live in poverty and don’t have access to good education. SNC is trying to change that.

“It’s great to start educating them young,” Spees said. “One student came up and asked to take his picture with me last time we were there. He was inspired by all the work our students have done, hopefully it changes his life.”

When students are not doing service work and helping schools, they are doing important conservation work. Mainly through photography.

“Photos play a big part in conservation,” Steve Ellsworth, chair of SNC’s math department, said. “Look at people like Ansel Adams, without his photos many of the conservation efforts in the high sierra would not have existed.”

While helping others is the main goal of the trip, many of the students feel as if Africa helped them more than they helped it.

“Before we went last year I was in a bad headspace. Going to Africa really opened my eyes to the world, it helped me a lot,” Rocco Fiattarone, an SNC student and Africa trip alumni, said.

| Photo credit: Taylor Halsey
Students captured a young cheetah sitting in a tree while in South Africa.

For students going or interested in joining, the two-week trip offers three classes: conservation photography, African development economy, and international service learning. Students has to choose two.

“We have the opportunity to learn about the African economy firsthand,” Spees said.

While Africa sounds like a good time for those who are going, Spees and Ellsworth want to assure students that, “This is not a vacation”, and if you are interested in coming, they only want to take students who will take the work seriously.

Look for information about upcoming meetings about the trip. There are only 14 spots offered on a first-come first-served basis.

“Out of all the places in the world I’ve traveled, South Africa and Kruger National Park are the places I keep coming back too,” Spees said.