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Program Overview

Appalachia Volunteers


“The Appalachia Volunteers program is committed to building community through loving, learning, and serving those in Appalachia and beyond.”

We live our mission each year by:

  • - Embracing the Gospel’s call to “love one another”
  • - Learning, through discussion and reflection, about the societal realities in the United States that leave some marginalized and consider how our faith asks us to respond to the social injustices that create entrenched poverty
  • - Fostering a commitment to service throughout the year.

Through these goals, and our work in the struggling regions around the nation, the Appalachia Volunteers program seeks to build a better future by entering into solidarity with the people of the United States who are poor.


The program has experienced tremendous growth in recent years. As a result the group's reach has extended beyond the Appalachian region to include much of the Atlantic seaboard.

Throughout the year, our members learn about the inequalities and social injustices that are part of life for millions of Americans and, each spring break, we travel to a cross section of our nations, from urban centers to rural coal mining towns. We work and learn by day and, at night, draw on BC’s Jesuit roots by reflecting on our experiences.



Boston College was one of the first universities to sponsor an alternative spring break trip when Gregg Cassin, BC ’80, and nineteen classmates traveled to Vanceburg, Kentucky in February 1979 for an eight day trip centered on the tenants of service and solidarity.

“We’re out to raise the awareness of BC students in terms of the people of Appalachia,” Cassin told The Heights at the time. “People can’t conceive of third world conditions existing in our own country.”

The BC students lived simply that week, working to repair homes and farms while building relationships with the community and growing personally in emotional and spiritual ways. Their time together, Cassin told The Heights, brought to life “what Christ meant when he said, ‘Whatever you do to the last of mine, let you do unto me.”

The Appalachia Volunteers program has grown substantially since then. The group nearly doubled in size in its second year, with 34 students traveling to Kentucky and Ohio in 1980 to experience poverty in the United States. Some twenty years later, in 2000, 460 students raised almost $150,000 to support a program that had grown to spread from the borders of Maine to North Carolina. 

Today, Boston College’s Appalachia program celebrates more than 35 years of service and solidarity with and for the poor of the United States. Students annually raise more than $300,000 necessary to travel around the country, building homes, building community, and learning how to live just lives.

Article from The Heights, 1979

Check out this article from The Heights in 1979 to learn more about the beginnings of Appalachia Volunteers.














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The Appalachia Volunteers introduces students to the Catholic Jesuit mission of the university, encourages students to integrate moral and ethical principles with their experience of service and immersion and helps them decide how to use their gifts in service to others.  After student volunteers complete the year-long program, they will be able to:

1. Recognize two principles of Catholic Jesuit education contained in material or information they were given during the course of the program.

2. Identify two moral/ethical principles communicated during the input phase of the program and apply one of those principles to a field experience from their week of service.

3. Articulate two or more goals for service in one or more domains of their lives:  family relationships, friendships, college community, local community, the United States, and the global community.




 Interested in supporting the students and service of Appalachia Volunteers?
Learn more about donating to Appa.