Helping Others in Appalachia




While some MCLA students headed off to study in Ireland, Spain or Japan over the spring break, another group traveled to the mountains of Appalachia, on an Alternative Spring Break to provide academic tutoring and mentoring to high school students at The David School in David, Ky.

"It's a school that serves high school students who are academically failing, have severe economic hardship, and other factors, such as a home and family life that make it incredibly challenging for them to be successful in school," said Spencer Moser, coordinator of MCLA's Center for Service and Citizenship.

As a major in early childhood education and psychology, Kate Abbott '13, of North Greenbush, N.Y., has a genuine interest in working with children, particularly those who are troubled or "at risk." She was one of the 10 MCLA students to participate.

"Participating in the program allowed me the opportunity to gain real life experience in the field of education and to apply the knowledge I have obtained thus far," Abbott said.   

Giovani Dulcio '16 of Worcester, Mass., decided to take part in the Alternative Spring Break because of his love for service work.

"I've been an active volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club of Worcester since 2005, so when I heard that I had a chance to do a service project in Kentucky I was eager to join," Dulcio said.

According to Sam Boyden '13 of Erving, Mass., the MCLA students primarily worked one-on-one with a high school student in their classes, such as those in English, math and science.

"It was an incredibly rewarding experience because the students really benefited from our help," Boyden said. "They were behind in various subjects, with many of them being out of school for the last three or four years. To give them one-on-one support was invaluable."

According to Dominique McCoy '13 of Boston, Mass., "The principal, teachers and students were like a big family that welcomed us with open arms."

"We were split into two groups every day," she explained. "One group would do some type of service projects like painting a house or reorganizing The David School's library. The house that we were painting over was to be sold to help the school with funds that they are in dire need of. The other group would help out in classrooms, either shadowing a teacher or student. Both projects were very rewarding."

Ben Hoyt '16 of Haverhill, Mass., signed up for the trip because he thought it would be a great way to reach out to others while seeing a different part of the country. However, the experience changed him by providing a new perspective.

"After seeing the different kind of lives lived by The David School students and teachers, it makes the privilege of a college education seem all the more important," Hoyt said.

"Working with the students and helping out in the community was extremely rewarding," said Abbott. "The experience was also fun: traveling with friends, long car rides, eating and working together day in and day out allowed us to really get to know each other on a deeper, more personal level. Overall, we had a well-rounded experience that will help us be better educators in the future."

Dulcio called the experience "life-changing."

"I made friends that will last a lifetime. I've made connections with faculty because of this trip. It has opened the doors to so many different opportunities around campus," he said. "I've learned so much about who I am, and the progressions that I want to make in life just by being on this trip. I've learned to be happy for the small things that I take for granted."

"I once read that you should volunteer to build yourself, not your resume," Abbott said. "As a group, this experience brought us all closer together. We learned about ourselves and others and gained a greater appreciation for what we have."