Big Creek People in Action
Jeri Suarez is the
Associate Dean of Cultural & Community Engagement
Alison Ridley is the
Dean of Academic Services and Associate Professor,
THE TEAM MEMBERS
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
Tiffany is a Sociology major with a concentration in Social Work &
Social Policy with minors in Music and Psychology. Class of
I thought I knew a pretty good amount about
the Appalachian people and culture going into the week. But once
we got there, met the people, and saw their situations, I
realized that I still had no idea how hard their lives are. This
project made me realize how ignorant I still am about my own
country's poor economic and community situations.
I have changed my views from this experience. I honestly had
most of those stereotypical ideas about Appalachia and its
people going into the class. Even after our pre-trip learning I
thought that we were going to a community that was destitute and
none of the inhabitants had any hope. But once we got there, and
met Marsha and the Muncy's, I realized that I was just
projecting onto their situations. Sure, they don't have a lot of
money, and higher education, but they have a loving family and a
tight community, so they are pretty happy with their lives. It
made me re-evaluate what I thought brings happiness and what my
goals and hopes for the future are.
This project gave me a chance to learn about a culture and
people that I didn't really know anything about, and is right in
my own country. You get to do a variety of service projects,
with different age groups of people, and all of the projects are
so rewarding. The people you help, from the elementary school
kids to the elders at the Community Hospital, are so warm and
happy that you are there to spend time with them. You end up
learning so much about the importance of community from the
people you meet, and it really makes you re-evaluate your own
ideas about what's important. This was a very gratifying and
Alison is a English major and Art History minor. Class of 2008.
It is of course an entirely different experience to read about a
place, and then to visit it, but I think in the end the
impressions I received from our readings - that of an open,
tight-knit, struggling community - was more or less correct. It
is definitely set-up well, by preparing us before we got to the
communities. The readings, in-class discussions, and guest
lecturers were much more thorough than what I've heard from
other J-term classes and they make all the difference. No matter
how you prepare though, it will be a shock once you get there.
However, everyone that you meet is so friendly and open that
it's impossible to feel unwelcome or out of place. the trip is
very emotionally intense, but you leave without a doubt that
you've helped and touched every person's life that you meet (as
I try hard not to sound trite, but it's true).
I learned that
whatever little action I commit makes a difference. For example,
we spent perhaps only two hours at a retirement community in
Welch, but I'm confident that we made a lasting impression on
them. None of them wanted us to go, and all of them wanted us to
promise that we'd be back next year.
Flat-footing was a cultural experience that really stands out
for me. This experience combined both regional music and
regional dance, but most importantly, we were active
participants in it, and not observers. No, we weren't very good
at it, but our antics broke the ice and even got us cup cakes.
Phuong is a Communication Studies and Business major, minoring
in French. Class of 2010.
situation at War reminded me of some region in Vietnam.
According to some stereotypes, all that War has are mountains
and the coal mines. Sometimes, when people think about Vietnam,
they only think about the Vietnam War even though our country
has gone through that and has been recovering for thirty years.
Marsha talked about the flood in War two years ago, about how
bad it was. There is a flood every single year in the center of
Vietnam! And the people in that region recover after every
“flood season”. Just like War, you could not tell that they had
been through a serious flood.
very lucky that I had a priceless opportunity to go to look more
carefully at those mountain communities that I had read and
learned about. First, I will put up a good presentation for the
J-Term Extravaganza night to give other students a picture about
our class. I am also very interested in the economic problem
that has been struggled in those communities. I will do more
research about this and hopefully I can come to West Virginia
sometimes with a satisfactory solution.
This is a
wonderful experience! It helped me not only to learn about a new
community but also about myself. I got a chance to do a variety
of activities with kids in elementary school, high school
students and also the elders at a retirement community. I was
warmly welcomed by Marsha at Big Creek People in Action Center,
the Muncy family and also the ladies at the Diner. During a week
in Appalachia, I really felt like being part of this mountain
community. My first J-Term at Hollins will always be for me the
most cherished time of my freshmen year.
Appalachia through Service Learning is a priceless opportunity
to learn about a region full of respected and treasured
traditions and yet sadness. The program is well organized with a
lot of activities but also flexible.