Major: Environmental Studies
Minors: Poverty and Human Capability Studies, Teacher Education
Why did you apply for this particular internship? I decided I wanted to go somewhere rural because it would take me out of my comfort zone and be a completely different experience for me. Going to Big Ugly also gave me the opportunity to work with kids and incorporate my Environmental Studies major, so it sounded perfect.
How did your work apply to your studies at W&L? Many of my experiences this summer tied into what I've learned in my poverty and education classes and allowed me to actually see what I've been learning about. It also piqued my interest in coal mining's environmental impacts and its relation to poverty in the region.
What was the most unexpected aspect of your Shepherd Alliance experience? I was surprised by how much I enjoyed living in such a rural area, and despite its name, Big Ugly is quite a beautiful place. I am now actually considering teaching somewhere like it in the future.
Post-Graduation Plans: Elementary educationFavorite W&L Memory: Sledding for the first time last winter.
Favorite Classes: Poverty 101, Environmental Economics and Development in AmazonasFavorite Lexington Landmark: Blue Sky Bakery
Welcome to the Big Ugly volunteer house. There is no cell phone service, no television, and no Internet. Oh, and you can't flush the toilet paper. These are several of the things I knew about my living situation before I arrived for my internship at the Big Ugly Community Center. It almost sounded like I was heading to another country rather than right across the border to West Virginia. Needless to say, I was a little concerned about how my summer would go, and I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Lexington is the most rural place I have ever lived, and I had no idea how I would respond to living in what I considered the middle of nowhere.
The first couple weeks of work were not too exciting. I mainly got acquainted with the Center and started recruiting kids from the area for our camps. Then my supervisor asked if I would be interested in helping out at another camp, called the Web of Life, for a week. He told me that it was so rural, it made Big Ugly look suburban, but the nuns who run the camp do a lot of interesting things to help kids connect with nature and their environment. I decided to go; if nothing else, it would be a change of pace from Big Ugly for a week, and I was eager to experience more of West Virginia.
The first day I was there, one of the sisters told me to hop on a four-wheeler with her. To get to the camp, you have to drive a few miles up coal roads and then several more miles on unpaved road, so using four-wheelers to get around makes it faster, easier, and a lot more fun. So she gave me a little tour and took me around on the four-wheeler, then told me to get in the driver's seat. After that first drive, I fell in love with West Virginia. The rest of camp was just as fantastic as that first day. I heard some amazing stories, from both the campers and the sisters who live there, and I saw so many positive changes in the girls.
The Big Ugly camps left me with many of the same feelings as the Web of Life. I had a blast with the kids and staff, and I would never trade my experiences there for anything. One of my favorite memories is ghost hunting at the Center. At the camp, kids were able to choose what classes they wanted to take each week, and the Paranormal Investigation class was a huge hit. To go along with the class, we had several sleepovers that consisted of watching scary movies and searching for the ghosts that inhabit the Center. I was not a big believer in ghosts before that, but I have to admit, I was terrified at times and can say with some certainty that the Center is in fact haunted.
After spending just a little time with these kids, I knew I had made the right decision by choosing to work in West Virginia this summer. I made some great friends and cleared up any misconceptions I've ever had about West Virginia. I also learned a lot about rural poverty and life in Appalachia. Before this internship, I had never even considered visiting West Virginia, but now I can't wait to go back.