App State students trade their fall breaks for service breaks

Hayley Canal, Staffer

Three student service groups piled into vans and took off across North Carolina and Georgia to use their four days of freedom to give back this fall break. 

Alternative Service Experiences are peer-led domestic and international service trips offered by Appalachian and the Community Together every fall, winter and spring break.

Some students helped at a weekend camp for children with autism, two groups focused on issues of human trafficking and women’s rights, and others worked on a farm sanctuary that rehabilitates abused or surrendered animals. 

Megann Southworth, a senior sustainable development major, and Megan Aeschleman, a senior middle grades education major, co-led a trip to Camp Twin Lakes in Atlanta.

According to its website, the camp offers “fully adaptive, medically supportive and deeply impactful camp experiences” for children and young adults with disabilities and serious illnesses. 

Seven students joined Southworth and Aeschleman as volunteers, along with RaShaun Robinson, a graduate assistant for ACT who served as the group’s supervising faculty or staff member, otherwise known as their learning partner. During their stay, the group assisted with the “You B You Family” camp, which is offered to families of children with autism.

The group was divided among families to assist with accommodations and requests. After the families left, they assisted with grounds maintenance at the camp. 

Southworth said her favorite experience at the camp was watching children perform for their families in a talent show. She said she teared up watching. 

“It was amazing to see kids go all in with their emotions and their talents and just show off in such a genuine away and see their parents beaming with happiness,” Southworth said.

The trip marked the first time ACT has partnered with Camp Twin Lakes. The service partnership came after an App State alum and previous peer leader who worked with the camp, reached out to Summer Wisdom, the assistant director of ASE, suggesting she send a group. 

Kennedy Little, a senior social work major, and Ann Sekutowski, a senior nutrition and psychology double major, led a trip to Ziggy’s Refuge Farm Sanctuary in North Carolina.

Ziggy’s refuge provides rehabilitation and a safe home for farm animals on 175 acres of land in Providence, North Carolina. Owners Kristin Hartness and Jay Yontz named the refuge after “Ziggy the Traveling Piggy,” their famous 250-pound pig featured in The Dodo and People Magazine. 

Little and Sekutowski’s group assisted with tasks the owners lack time for in their daily routine of caring for over 60 animals. For the majority of their stay, ASE participants painted barns and cleaned up after the animals. 

“You weren’t necessarily working directly with the animals, but (the participants) were kind of contextualizing why this farm existed,” Sekutowski said. 

Little said many participants had never had close experiences with farm animals prior to the trip. 

Jordan McKay, a sophomore psychology major, said she bonded with the “yard horse,” who ate apples from her hands. 

During the trip, group discussions centered around veganism and animal abuse within factory farms, Little and Sekutowski said. By the end, participants were brainstorming ways to fundraise for the sanctuary, as the owners are attempting to crowdfund $300,000 to purchase the full 175 acres.