written by Mackenzie Horl ’17
This year was my third year participating in the Spring Break Immersion Program run by the Chaplains Office. I can honestly say that my experiences on “Appa,” as the program is commonly referred to at Holy Cross, have been some of my favorite and most transformative while here on the hill.
From the time I was a first year at Holy Cross, I had repeatedly heard older students talking about the Spring Break Immersion Program. I heard rumors about how much fun people had at their sites and the friendships that lasted well beyond the one week spent in Appalachia. Unfortunately, nerves got the best of me and I did not sign up for the program as a first year student. However, when I heard my roommate’s stories about her group and all those who she served during her first experience on “Appa,” I promised myself that I would not miss out the next year.
That was a promise that I would keep to myself for the remainder of my spring breaks at Holy Cross. I have visited Ivanhoe, Virginia, Barren Springs, Virginia and Wheeling, West Virginia respectively. At each site, I met unique people and came to better understand their struggles. I found myself in parts of Appalachia that I probably would have never experienced, had I not decided to go on Spring Break Immersion.
This year, I went to Wheeling, West Virginia with twelve other students from Holy Cross. I spent the week living and working in The Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling. Each day we ate breakfast and lunch with the patrons who visited the soup kitchen, many of whom were homeless. There were numerous times during this experience that I felt like I had ventured outside of my comfort zone. Before this experience, I had never really come into contact with homeless people before. However, this experience was eye opening for me and taught me a lot about the society that I live in and how the homeless are treated.
I am always amazed when I meet my group each year at the Spring Break Immersion send-off held in Kimball. The night consists of an hour or two of making small talk and getting to know one another. Conversation usually revolves around questions like “what grade are you in? or “what is your major?” Usually I find myself wondering if I made the right decision to go away to a place that I have never been before with fellow Holy Cross students who I have never met before. However, after my first day of the service trip, I always know that I made the right decision. This year, I went to Wheeling with twelve strangers and I returned to Holy Cross with twelve new friends. I look forward to seeing my Appa friends around campus in between classes or meeting up at Cool Beans to chat about life.
I am thankful to the Spring Break Immersion program for opening my eyes to the injustices that people in the United States face. I know that the three weeks that I have spent in Appalachia throughout my time at Holy Cross have meant much more to me, than to those that I have served. However, I hope to take these experiences back with me to Holy Cross and wherever my life journey takes me.