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Destiny Slocum has taken some fun vacations to places such as Italy and Russia, but admits that toward the end, she was ready to return home.

However, on her recent trip to the Dominican Republic as part of Oregon State’s Beavers Without Borders program, Slocum wanted nothing more than to remain there.

“I didn’t want to leave,” Slocum, who will be a redshirt sophomore with the women’s basketball program this season, said last week. “There was a difference between a vacation and then what we did there. We built relationships and built a foundation with those people that will be there forever.”

Slocum, who transferred to Oregon State last summer after spending her freshman season at Maryland, is one of three women’s basketball players who will have taken part in the Beavers Without Borders program this summer.

Joining Slocum on the trip to the Dominican Republic was junior-to-be Mikayla Pivec. In August, Katie McWilliams, who will be a senior, is headed to Guatemala for a week of service.

Slocum and Pivec left just after finals week and spent their time interacting with the people while they planted corn and yucca and helped build rabbit cages.

It was not easy work, but turned out to be extremely rewarding.

Pivec and Slocum worked together and helped to plant around seven acres of corn.

“It was harder than I thought,” Pivec admitted. “But it was a fun experience at first. After we did the first acre we were like OK, we still have a lot to go. Hopefully once we see how the corn is growing in the future it will be rewarding.”

If they thought planting the corn kernels was a task, yucca was even more of a physical demand.

“To plant (the yucca) you had to dig a big hole and plant them in the ground like three across and then cover it,” Pivec said. “With corn, you put the stick in and drop the kernels and cover and that was it. But Yucca was a little more time consuming.”

The team came up with a rotation plan that had one person digging the holes for a row and the next person would come by and drop in the yucca and fill it up. Then they would switch.

Pivec and another team member also had quite the adventure when they rode in the bed of a truck up a mountain for about an hour trip — the driver knew where they were headed but Pivec and the other team member didn't — searching for more yucca to plant.

While Pivec was having that experience, Slocum began helping on the rabbit cages. She learned just how hard it can be to dig holes there.

“I didn’t know that was a process to dig a hole, that you had to clamp it and someone had to hit the sides and you had to make it perfectly round to put the log in,” she said. “It was a lot different than people think. It was not as hard as planting Yucca but it was still hard.”

When the work was done, the team spent time interacting with the community. Both Pivec and Slocum were blown away by the energy the locals had after working so hard each day.

Dancing was a big part of the entertainment at night, and Slocum was happy to join in.

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“They can go for hours,” Slocum said. “I’ve never met people who were like we’ll stay up into 3 a.m. and then just run. I’m exhausted. We worked all day, how are you not tired? Then they would wake up at 8 a.m. like nothing happened the day before. I’m exhausted, physically exhausted. They are like good morning, how are you? I don’t understand.”

The experience as a whole was a first for Pivec and Slocum, who both enjoy serving others. They learned so much and grew a lot during the trip, which helped put a lot of things in perspective.

Slocum said she has been trying to disconnect from things that can have a negative impact on her happiness.

Developing new bonds with the people she was helping, as well as fellow student-athletes, in such a short time was an incredible experience.

“These are like some of the strong relationships that I have with people I’ve known my entire life," Slocum said. “It kind of opened my eyes to what type of people I’m around, what I’m doing, what I’m thankful for, who’s going to be there to build me up and tear me down.

“Being with people who have similar mindsets of service and wanting to help people, for me that was an eye-opener of wow, I think it’s time that I dive in and be around people that are similar in mindset. Because I had the best week of my life.”

Pivec had a similar realization. She saw just how happy somebody can be without any material objects and how important relationships were to them.

“Talking to people was their most favorite thing to do,” Pivec said. “A lot of times we go to airports or we go to eat dinner and we just go straight to our phone or we don’t make the effort to connect when really that’s what they value the most there. It’s super important because that’s what gets you through tough times.”

Both would love to make a return trip next year, if they are accepted again.

“It’s an opportunity that I feel like I can’t pass up and I will apply for it every year,” Slocum said. “If they want to take me every year then they take me every year. But I’m just happy that I got to go once."

McWilliams, meanwhile, will get her opportunity to hopefully have a similar experience when she goes with a group to Guatemala Aug. 21-29.

She had a chance to be on the same trip as her teammates but decided to branch out a little and visit an area where her dad once played basketball.

McWilliams said the plan is to help build a soccer field and to provide shoes for the children. She will get the opportunity to wash their feet and size them for the new shoes.

“Overall I’m just excited for the experience,” she said. “When I was younger I was always interested in going on missions trips with my church and that never really worked out. This will kind of be that missions trip for me. I’ll be able to preach my wisdom to those kids and just be able to have fun with them.”

She’s also excited about building strong bonds with fellow student-athletes — she knows just two of the 13 on the trip.

“I say hi to them every day but don’t actually know them or have ever had a conversation with them so that will be cool for me,” she said. “Our point is to go over there and to make as much of an impact for the community (as we can), and for me to just realize what that is like over there.”

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Sports Editor

Sports editor of the Albany Democrat-Herald and Corvallis Gazette-Times