Summer of Service: Students respond to addition of two trips over summer


Sstudents celebrated their last day in Dunlow with signing each others’ shirts that they had received as a part of going on the Mission Trip. Photo courtesy of Emma Vogt.

Gabby Anderson, staff writer

At 6 a.m. in Dunlow, West Virginia, sophomore Lilli Switzer woke up and rubbed her eyes to adjust to the light. On Monday, March 14, students began the first day of work of the spring break mission trip. 

Switzer met with the rest of her group, fellow students from Miege who had volunteered to give their spring breaks to serve the rural Appalachian community of Dunlow.  

“It’s a community experience,” campus ministry director Bill Creach said. “They make new friends. They learn things about themselves, about how blessed and fortunate they are.”

The West Virginia Mission Trip has existed as part of Miege tradition since the 1990s,  according to Creach. He said that the West Virginia trip is the most successful mission trip because it is an impactful spiritual experience. 

“I grew stronger in my faith and learned to let God choose my vocation,” Switzer said. 

According to Switzer, she strengthened bonds with the people she went on the trip with and felt renewed gratitude for the things she has at home. 

“It definitely opened my eyes to poverty, it made me thankful for what I have,” Switzer said. “We were driving down the street and I saw a bunch of houses that were boarded, and you could see straight through them because there were holes everywhere.”

Creach said that important experiences come from this mission trip, including practical skills that students learn from construction projects that they complete. 

“They come back with a different worldview because they’ve seen rural Appalachia and West Virginia, and most have never seen that,” Creach said. “I think they probably have assumptions or misconceptions about that region and those people, but then they’re there. They meet people, they spend a week there so they just come back with a different perspective.”

The CMT office announced that it would be adding two summer mission trips, including one going back to Dunlow, West Virginia in June. Junior Carmela Pollina joined the trip as one of the first students to sign up. 

“I’m excited to just get to know more people at school that I don’t see every day,” Pollina said. 

Pollina said she looks forward to helping the people in Dunlow along with getting to know the people she goes to school with better. 

According to Creach, the return of the spring break trip is significant after it had not been possible due to COVID-19 for the past two years. He said that the West Virginia Mission trip had stayed the most consistent of all the trips that Miege has sponsored since many had stopped due to issues over the years. 

“I think it was pretty smart of them to add a summer trip,” Pollina said. “Especially since, during the school year, some people can’t go because of schoolwork.” 

Pollina said that simply the act of service drew her towards the summer mission trip after she had heard about it from assistant campus ministry director Nancy Miller. Pollina said that the summer trip doesn’t feel like time taken away from her summer but like a vacation instead.

Creach, Switzer and Pollina recommended going on the trip for anyone who can make it possible. Creach especially endorsed the trip because, according to him, it is a great way to gain experience and earn 60 hours of service at once. 

“People have a powerful service experience working on houses for people who can’t afford to have their houses updated or fixed,” Creach said. “But it’s also a prayerful experience. It’s just the best of both worlds as far as service and retreat coming together.”