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Seminar takes Notre Dame Students to Appalachia

| Wednesday, October 29, 2014

While many students travelled home to see family over fall break, 242 Notre Dame students journeyed to the Appalachia region of the United States for weeklong service immersion trips through the Center for Social Concerns (CSC).

This year, students travelled to 18 unique sites in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia, CSC Appalachia seminar director Kyle Lantz said.

AppalachiaPhoto courtesy of Kate Broadbent
“Some sites participate in education. Others engage in questions around energy and the environment. Many sites work directly on construction projects. Others focus on living simply and sustainably,” Lantz said. “The class attempts to set forth a way of learning and engaging these various experiences, utilizing tools like theological reflection.”

Junior Kate Broadbent travelled to Bethlehem Farm in Pence Springs, West Virginia, where she said her group lived simply and worked in the local community.

“[Bethel Farm] is a Catholic community focused around the four cornerstones of prayer, simplicity, community and service,” Broadbent said. “As part of their mission of simplicity, they have a strong emphasis on sustainability, so all the food is either farm-grown or purchased local and organic. They also strive to conserve water and electricity. While there, I worked at different sites in the community doing everything from roofing and painting to working in the community gardens.”

Lantz said the Appalachia program allows students to engage with the challenges the Appalachia region faces through a lens of Catholic Social Teaching.

“We want students to consider what a justice framework like Catholic Social Teaching has to say to systemic issues that do not have simple solutions,” Lantz said. “We think spending a week in this region allows students to engage these issues while hopefully contributing to long-term positive community impact through our partnerships.”

Like Broadbent, junior Connor Hayes also went to West Virginia, but worked at a separate site, Nazareth Farm in Salem. Hayes said he felt a strong engagement in social justice throughout the trip.

“My favorite part about the week was being able to live for a week in a tight-knit community devoted to social justice, and one that I feel had a very well-balanced and nuanced perspective on the service it was conducting in the broader community in which it is situated,” Hayes said. “Just being in that type of environment is something I recommend to everyone.”

Lantz said he hopes the Appalachia program impacts participants long-term through the lessons the immersion taught them.

“I would like to see students consider next steps both related to the Appalachia region, but also issues of social justice broadly,” Lantz said. “We always try to push students to consider next steps after taking part in a seminar like Appalachia.

“For some that is participation in other CSC programs. For others, it is something in the local community. For others it’s a choice of lifestyle and habits. There are many ways to take next steps.”

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About Emma Borne

Emma Borne started as a news writer for the Observer in Fall 2013. She is a senior majoring in Sociology and Peace Studies. She loves writing for the Observer because it allows her to participate in campus life in a way that she otherwise wouldn't and because she gets to work with some super talented, awesome people!

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