TEAM 2007



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Life Stories

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2007 Team



Big Creek People in Action
     The Amazing Marsha




Jeri Suarez is the Associate Dean of Cultural & Community Engagement

Alison Ridley is the Dean of Academic Services and Associate Professor, Spanish





Tiffany is a Sociology major with a concentration in Social Work & Social Policy with minors in Music and Psychology. Class of 2010.

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 humbling experience.


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.

The 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.

I feel 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. 

View 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.




This site was last updated 05/14/07