Despite a summer of service spent in Salyersville, Ky., University of Dayton students still felt connected to their campus home through their front porch.
Fourteen UD students opted for sleeping bags instead of full-sized beds as members of UD’s Summer Appalachia Program (UDSAP).
“We slept on our front porch almost every night,” said Danny Gregus, a senior biochemistry major. Not even rain could interrupt this community-oriented tradition. “If it rained we would all sleep in the living room, on couches and scattered on the floor.”
During their stay, UD students offered various programs to the Appalachian community including a day camp for kids, a teen center and visits to a local nursing home.
Each student was given a job while in Appalachia. Sophomore mechanical engineering major Andrew Eckrich was one of two directors of nursing home activities and led a program for nursing home residents in celebration of the Fourth of July.
“We brought streamers and miniature American flags to decorate the wheelchairs and paraded the residents around the nursing home singing ‘America the Beautiful’ and ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’” he said.
The Appalachian teens involved in the teen center program were given a taste of where the UD students were from. “We took them on a trip to Dayton, Ohio, to show them our home and what a college environment is like,” said Kathryn Kinsel, a senior psychology major. “We wanted them to dream a little.”
In the afternoons, Flyers had free time to visit with the families of the teens and children who took part in their programs.
“The Saylersville community is very friendly and often invited us into their homes,” said Gregus. Family visits were perhaps the most eye-opening part of the trip. “Their pace of life is much slower,” Eckrich said. “They are more open to conversation and are genuinely interested in hearing your story.”
Flyers stayed in a house with a living room, kitchen and two bedrooms. The house came equipped with running water but no indoor bathroom, shower or electricity.
Living conditions enabled the students to live more simply. “We had a lot more time to focus on people,” said Eckrich.
The students’ food supply came from home, too: UD’s student neighborhood. Students collected non-perishable food items from their classmates during spring move-out.
Because of UDSAP, the students now have a much broader, yet more personal, outlook on poverty. “The poor have a face now,” Kinsel said. “The poor have a name.”