Students spend spring break in Appalachia

Published on: March 31, 2024

Students spend spring break in Appalachia

Allison Siravo, Nezayja Brown, Giovanna Scuderi, Nicholas Coppola, and Quron White stand on the steps they built for a home in Appalachia.

During spring break, many students spend their time relaxing or going on vacation. This was not the case for a group of students from campus ministry.

Thirteen of these students spent their spring break in Lee County, Virginia, helping The Appalachia Service Project repair severely damaged homes. 

Guilherme Lopes, the director of campus ministry, organized and planned the trip to Lee County. “The location was beautiful,” he recalls, “but the poverty was really extreme.” 

He immediately noticed that many people live in unstable homes that are not safe for human occupancy.

Nicholas Coppola, a member of campus ministry and a senior, was shocked by the conditions. “You could tell it was a very difficult financial situation for most of these families. The most unexpected thing I saw was the way people made ends meet, but it made the work we were doing even more important.”

Ashley Neff, a junior in the campus ministry group, admits that a lot shocked her about the Lee County area. “It was unlike anything I have ever seen before. There were a lot of abandoned houses, houses filled with trash overflowing onto the porch and front yard.” 

After observing the need in Lee County, the students split into groups and got to work. “My group in particular had to help rebuild a family’s set of porch steps that were rotted and falling apart,” says Coppola.

Neff worked on another project. “My group was working on a 200-year-old house and replacing the floors in the kitchen and hallway.”

Rebuilding and repairing houses is a new experience for most of the students, who found the spring break project rewarding. They even built strong bonds with local residents.

Giovanna Scuderi, a junior at Neumann, talked about the time students spent on “the porch,” the common gathering space filled with rocking chairs. “I was honestly able to build my relationships and get closer with everyone,” she remembers.

Neff agrees. “Some nights, we would just sit outside and have long conversations and we'd be laughing uncontrollably and bonding. It was so amazing.”

The Appalachia Service Project is a Christian organization that has been improving the lives of Appalachians for over 50 years. It helps more than one million people annually. To learn more, visit





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