FILE PHOTO: BC Appalachia Volunteers at work with Habitat for Humanity. (Matt Eich | LUCEO)

In 2021, the coronavirus pandemic forced the Boston College Appalachia Volunteers to replace their weeklong nationwide service trips last year with four weekends of service in Eastern Massachusetts. This year, the group—more commonly known as “Appa”—will return to their spring break trip model when 250 students travel to 26 different locations around the country to work alongside underresourced communities.

“Appa has experienced so much in its 43-year history at Boston College, especially after creatively navigating through pandemic realities,” said Campus Minister Jacob Blicharz, the administrator for Appa.

“Our patience, trust, and faith has led our planning process and allowed for us to make a return to our roots this year.”

In addition to the week of service, participants meet biweekly throughout the school year to learn about the structural injustices and social realities that marginalize people and how BC’s Jesuit tradition can guide our response.

Each service trip has two student leaders who are trained on servant leadership and service-immersion practices.

Rebecca Fontana ’22 will be a leader for this year’s trip to Ivanhoe, Va., where students will work with the Ivanhoe Civic League, an organization that facilitates community rebuilding projects in the former coal-mining town.

“As a program and a group of student leaders, we are very cognizant of the fact that the pandemic is still ongoing, and that many of the sites that we serve through Appa Volunteers are vulnerable communities and have more restricted access to health care than we do here at BC,” said Fontana. “Our site coordinator told my co-leader and me over the phone that the community of Ivanhoe was hit hard by COVID. This will likely be a focal point of our trip and a topic of discussion during our group’s reflections, specifically, how the pandemic has impacted rural communities throughout the country like Ivanhoe.”

Blicharz said he has been especially inspired by this year’s student participants, eaders, and community partners.

“I believe this Appa chapter speaks profoundly to what its story is all about—a courage to love, a desire to learn, and a commitment to community—even in the more uncertain of times.”

All travel involving BC programs has to be authorized by the University because of the current restrictions in place. In addition to Appa, the Magis Civil Rights spring break trip to Alabama and Georgia has been approved. Meanwhile, students who enrolled in the Arrupe international immersion program—originally scheduled for January—now have the option to go during Easter break next month and after Commencement in May.

Spring break international service trips, including the Dominican Republic Service- Learning and Immersion Program and Jamaica Mustard Seed, were canceled for this year as both locations have level-four travel advisories in place.

Christine Balquist | University Communications | March 2022