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Marian seniors volunteer in Appalachia

TheresMilazzo (left) Matteson; SophiSesChicago Heights; Celeste Friel Crete work home during their recent service trip.  |  Supplied photo

Theresa Milazzo (left), Matteson; Sophia Sesto, Chicago Heights; and Celeste Friel, Crete, work on a home during their recent service trip. | Supplied photo

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Updated: September 5, 2013 6:02AM



Summer break was less than one week old when Marian Catholic High School seniors Cooper Packard and Alyssa Lorenzo hopped on a bus and went on a service trip to the Appalachian mountains.

They and 29 other students from the Chicago Heights school took the one-week trip with 14 chaperones. The Marian students stayed in cabins in the mountains just outside of where they worked in Harlan, Ky.

The trip was organized in conjunction with a group called Christian Outreach with Appalachian People, a nonprofit organization that provides housing for low-income residents living in the Appalachian mountains.

Each student had to pay about $430 to go on the service trip, where students worked with local carpenters and learned how to shingle roofs, paint walls, stuff walls with insulation, remove cabinets, lay down tile and demolish water pumps, among other duties.

“Alyssa and I are on the speech team, and we don’t do sports that push the boundaries physically, so coming into it I wasn’t expecting to handle it,” Packard said.

Lorenzo said she finished a week of hard labor learning that she could do more than she had known.

“The big thing was being aware of what you can do and what you can accomplish,” Lorenzo said. “Going in, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do any of this and I wouldn’t be able to accomplish much. I learned how to use a power tool and shingle a roof and things most teenagers wouldn’t know how to do.”

The students worked at the houses from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day. When the workday was done, the students explored their camp, went on hikes, played sports and hung out outside.

It was a bit of a culture shock for the students as none of them had cellphone reception where they were staying, they said. The nearest place where the students could use their phones was a nearby mountaintop.

“Without any technology, you think it would limit you, but it was completely awesome,” Packard said.

“We were in tune with nature,” Lorenzo said

During the week, each cabin of students was responsible for different chores, including cooking dinner, cleaning the bathrooms and taking out the trash. The students were required to reflect on what they learned while working on the houses every night.

“There was something that surprised me about each day,” Packard said. “I wasn’t expecting to shingle an entire house I’ll tell you that.”

When it was time to go, some of the student left with special souvenirs. A few students adopted stray cats and dogs and brought them home.

“Students adjusted beautifully and did any job willingly and with enthusiasm,” Linda Savick, annual trip supervisor and Marian Catholic teacher, said in a news release. “Everyone was so positive and enriched by the experience.”

Sister Dorothy Marie Solak, Marian Catholic service director, said the Appalachia volunteer program is a transforming experience for students as they walk away with a sense of empowerment, knowing they have the ability to make a positive change in the world.

Students who participated in the trip in addition to Packard, of Lansing, and Lorenzo, of Thornton, were Hannah Bohlen, Homewood; Laura Hilger, Oak Forest; David Klein, Frankfort; Theresa Milazzo, Matteson; Cristin Milliner, Richton Park; Alexa Nelson, Tinley Park; Rachel Piacentini, Steger; Patrick Murday, Frankfort; Katie Spear, Mokena; Kyllah Thompson, Richton Park; Isabelle Keating and Shannon Mulholland, both of Flossmoor; Allison Arvia, Thornton; Melanie Craft and Celeste Friel, both of Crete; Alex Keane, Sam Roche, Sophia Sesto, Danielle Sovereign and Aimee Tiberi, all of Chicago Heights; Caitlin Henry, Padraic McSwiggan, Cooper Packard and Jacqueline Surd, all of Lansing; and Phil Block, Courtney Fuhrman, Mary Hardig and Sarah Murzyn, all of Schererville, Ind.



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