Spring Break Immersion: What I learned in Ivanhoe, Virginia

By Caroline Muniz ’23

Features Editor

Every year, the student participants of the Spring Break Immersion Program (SBIP) set out on various service trips not to save underprivileged communities, but to form connections with the people of these places and to ask them questions. It is truly an experience that only becomes harder to encapsulate in writing after one participates in the program. It creates a rare opportunity for reflection, connection and checking in. 

I was lucky enough to go to Ivanhoe, Virginia. It is a former mining town where most residents live below the poverty line. Despite the challenges that the town has faced, there was a strong sense of community within the small town. As a first time participant in the program, I did not know exactly what to expect from Ivanhoe. However, I saw it as an opportunity to grow within a community that I would never get the chance to be a part of otherwise. 

The Ivanhoe group was led by SBIP leaders Brendan Taylor ’24 and Delaney Walch ’24 and they were able to exude the values of the program through great leadership and kindness. Although we as a group may have experienced moments of discomfort, they were moments in which we could take something away that we could not find anywhere else and the leaders were there to help guide us through those difficult moments. “​​Hopefully I helped give everyone an experience where they learned a lot about other people’s livelihoods, how we can help make the world a more just, fair and friendly place, and that as humans we have much more in common than we think despite economic and social differences,” says Taylor. 

SBIP was faced with many challenges due to the snow storm that occurred early on Saturday March 4th that forced many scheduled flights and commutes to be rescheduled. Many groups were faced with great challenges that forced their trips to be shortened. Although the plans changed, SBIP students were flexible and accepted the changes for what they were rather than letting them affect their experience. Although certain trips were more affected than others, the setback provided a lesson in which we learned to accept things as they are. 

The Ivanhoe group was welcomed by a group of students from Boston College, who also joined us in our acts of service. Although the service tasks may have appeared small, they were acts in which we helped make someone’s day at least a little bit easier. After a day of raking leaves or picking up sticks, we would eat meals together in the Ivanhoe Civic League House alongside Ivanhoe citizens Phyllis, Danny, Coy, Wayne, and other members of the community. 

We would laugh and learn more about each other as the days went on. The days were spent helping as well as reflecting with one another. It was as though a lifetime’s worth of bonding had occurred during the short time we had spent together with the community. “SBIP guides and heals you in ways that you didn’t know you needed to be healed, which is a special type of magic I continue to experience throughout my involvement with the program,” states Walch.

Spring Break Immersion is something that every student at Holy Cross should experience and I am very appreciative of my short time in the program. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by an inspirational and compassionate group of Holy Cross students who made the experience better than anything I could have hoped for. Although a short article does not do the experience justice, the lessons that I learned in Ivanhoe will truly stay with me long after my time at Holy Cross. Thanks to Ivanhoe, I will always remember that no matter where you go, there you are.

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