It has been two weeks since I got back from my journey to the Appalachia Region, specifically Neon, Kentucky. Neon is about an 9 hour drive from Saint Joe’s campus (12 hours counting all of the pit stops).
As a freshman, I was very reluctant to sign up for the Appalachian Experience (APEX), because I did not know what to expect, I had never done a service retreat to that high of an extent, and I was not sure if I could handle more time away from my family and friends back at home. However, my roommate and I decided we should just try it since everyone always raves about the program. And I mean raves.
So November rolled around, which meant that reveal was right around the corner. I was so incredibly excited to find out where I would be going for my spring break. I had heard such great things about all of the different sites and I just wanted to know already!
So it was finally Reveal Night. I had received an index card with a yellow, neon circle drawn on it. Then, I had no idea that that circle meant I was going to the town of Neon, but looking back it seems so obvious.
The room was filled with so much excitement that you couldn’t help but feel extremely overwhelmed and anxious. I definitely think a mutual thought between everyone in that room was: JUST TELL ME WHERE I’M GOING! Everyone was exhilarated to find out. Everyone was sitting on the edges of their chairs.
So finally Matt Fulmer, who runs the program, started yelling out the different card drawings and then tells the people with that card which site they are going to; there are 17 different sites. It felt like an eternity until yellow, neon circle was called. But it did. When I heard I was going to Kentucky, I was thrilled! I had never been there before. But then I heard people calling out “Supergroup.” I wondered what that meant. I soon learned to find out that I was in the biggest group by far: 53 people. I didn’t know whether to be upset or excited. I was feeling an extreme mix of emotions, because I knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to get as close with everyone as the other groups because of the size.
But boy was I wrong. After spending a week with 52 other people, I can 100% say that we all have gotten so close. There is just something about the whole experience that brings people together. I like to refer to it as the “APEX Magic” because you literally cannot believe it.
Whether it was from the van rides, the dinners, hiking, thrift shopping,cooking or cleaning, working at the various houses, reflections, or just goofing around. We became a big family–a big Neon family. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.