To give you some background, the students who participated in this trip applied and interviewed all the way back in October, so they were very excited come March to actually leave for the trip! There were a total of 17 students, one student leader, one Graduate Student Leader, and one Spiritan Campus Ministry Staff Leader. We had several pre-trip meetings in which we went over logistics, packing lists, the projects, the history of Mullens, and other information pertaining to the Appalachian experience. When we finally met at 7am to load up the vans on Saturday of spring break, everyone was fully prepared to immerse themselves in the culture and community of Southeast West Virginia.
It was about a six hour drive (including lunch and bathroom breaks of course!) and we arrived, we were greeted by the staff of the Rural Appalachian Improvement League, including Charlene Cook and her husband and later on Dewey Houck. We settled in, set-up our rooms, and relaxed while we waited for Nate Tauger, the resident Americorps leader for RAIL/the Mullens Opportunity Center, to arrive. There were mostly girls on our trip, so we all hunkered down in one room with the boys sharing a room with boys from another university (Christopher Newport- more on them soon!) downstairs. It was very cozy!!
Once Nate arrived, he took us on a hike through downtown Mullens and up through the mountains on a trail to an overlook point. He told us about the history of Mullens as well as what he and others were doing to improve the community. It was a really nice way for us to be introduced into the community, stretch our legs, and begin to bond with each other!
After our hike we made dinner, played games, and did our first reflection group of the trip. It was a perfect first day in Mullens!