For the first time in 17 years, the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico’s Community Experience canceled their annual Spring Storm event, which was previously scheduled on April 20. However, rather than forego the day entirely, ASUNM Community Experience chose to revoke its conventional format and opted to host the event virtually.
The virtual Spring Storm consisted of UNM students being encouraged to do an act of community service while respecting COVID-19 safety guidelines. This service could range from yard work to household chores, and students were encouraged to post pictures on their Instagram stories featuring their participation.
Community Experience hosts a plethora of campus and community-wide service events throughout the scholastic year. These services include Fall Frenzy, in which student organizations form teams to clean various areas of campus, the Giving Tree, in which students are encouraged to purchase gifts outlined on tags taken from a Christmas tree, and food and blood drives, among others.
However, its largest and most anticipated annual event by far is Spring Storm, which coordinates efforts to clean and renovate Albuquerque’s community with the help of teams formed largely by UNM student organizations.
Lynn Midani, a junior majoring in biology and the executive director of Community Experience, said she and her fellow students were saddened by the event’s cancelation.
“We hosted a blood drive and wellness event during the first half of the semester, but we were really looking forward to this event because it has so much impact around various parts of the Albuquerque community,” Midani said.
However, Midani said that this very desire to positively affect the community of Albuquerque is what sparked the decision to host Spring Storm remotely. Midani said this decision involved many responsibilities in relatively short notice, such as designing and purchasing a limited amount of shirts, garnering attention for the event through various social media platforms and participating in the event itself.
Indeed, Midani said she remained actively involved on the day of Spring Storm.
“On the day of Spring Storm, I encouraged lots of friends to join in and participate, and I gardened and did yard work outside,” she said.
Several other UNM students saw the virtual Spring Storm as an opportunity to clean up their houses and neighborhoods.
Zerrick Plake, a sophomore majoring in business and the assistant director of ASUNM’s Emerging Lobo Leaders, said that a virtual Spring Storm was proposed to volunteers during a Community Experience meeting conducted via Zoom. He said he was pleased to have the chance to participate in such an event while still adhering to current COVID-19 restrictions.
“Although I would have loved to be able to go out more and help the larger community, this pandemic has forced us to be more cautious, so I decided to just help out my parents,” Plake said.
Plake said this help consisted of cleaning up trash in his backyard, weeding and mowing the lawn.
“I chose to participate because I want to help spread CE’s message of taking care of our community and keep their tradition alive,” Plake said. “I also wanted to help my parents out, and I think it’s important to care about our community and to take advantage of our extra free time by doing something that helps Albuquerque look the best that it can.”
Lacy Garner, a senior majoring in health, medical, and human values and the executive director of ASUNM’s Emerging Lobo Leaders, said she took advantage of the virtual Spring Storm to help her older sister clean her horse stalls. Like Plake, Garner also said she believes that it is important to channel increased free time into beneficial and productive outlets.
“I also want to support ASUNM Community Experience, because their staff worked so hard to adapt this annual event into something that could be done while practicing social distancing,” Garner said.
Midani stressed the importance of community work due to its widespread impact, especially during times of crisis.
“Having a virtual Spring Storm during a time of social distancing is just as meaningful and important because people and organizations around Albuquerque need our help now more than ever,” she said. “Spring Storm this year was so amazing because it had the ability to touch people that might not have been impacted by our event if it were under normal conditions.”
Beatrice Nisoli is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BeatriceNisoli