A Quarter Century of Service
Appalachia Volunteers a hallmark of students' spring break service
By Mark Sullivan
Boston College's Appalachia Volunteers program began 25 years ago with four undergraduates piling into a car and driving 850 miles to work with the poor in rural Kentucky.
This past weekend, 562 BC students departed in a fleet of buses for 31 locations up and down the eastern seaboard as the Appalachia Volunteers marked a quarter-century as the largest student-run spring-break service organization in the nation.
Campus Minister Daniel Leahy '82 has seen the program grow since he traveled on three of the first four Appalachia Volunteer trips as a BC student.
"The experience had a huge effect on me, and changed the way I saw the world," Leahy said. "It made the Jesuit ideal real - you could, in fact, find God in all people."
A send-off Mass was celebrated by Vice President and Assistant to the President William Neenan, SJ, at St. Ignatius Church on the evening of Feb 27. The next day, the students departed campus in 13 Greyhound buses that transported them to central locations from which they fanned out in 90 seven-passenger vans to locations from New York to Georgia.
The destinations ranged from Syracuse, NY, to Cordele, Ga., from Birmingham, Ala., to the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay. Students are building houses with Habitat for Humanity in 17 locations and taking part in community projects in the other 14.
They return to BC at the close of Spring Break week on March 6.
The students raised $212,000 for the trips through letter-writing campaigns and fund-raising among friends and family.
"The program is based on the Jesuit ideal that the University is helping form 'men and women for others,'" said Campus Minister Tamara Liddell.
"In immersing themselves in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States, our students are broadening their educational and personal experience in ways that will be life-defining," she said.
"The spirit of service is focused on Appalachia, but all volunteers are required, as part of their formation, to serve locally throughout the fall semester. This year they were heavily involved in the Brighton community."
The Appalachia Volunteers is the largest but not the only service expedition being sponsored by Boston College Campus Ministry this spring break. Immersion trips to Nicaragua, Jamaica and Mexico are expected to draw 15 students apiece.
Other BC schools and departments also have sponsored service trips over the break.
Eleven students have traveled to Newton's sister city in Nicaragua, San Juan del Sur, to help in the schools, plant trees, and perform other forms of community service on a trip sponsored by the Sociology Department and the College of Arts and Sciences.
Some 15 students have made an immersion trip to El Salvador under the auspices of the BC Volunteer and Service Learning Center.
Lynch School of Education students have traveled for the sixth year in a row to help at the Holy Family School in Natchez, Miss., one of the nation's longest-serving parochial schools for African-American Catholics, in one of the poorest regions of the Mississippi Delta. Eighteen are expected to make the trip to Mississippi. Students from the Lynch School also have traveled to the Dominican Republic and to Jamaica, where they are assisting at the Mustard Seed Community for orphaned and sick children.