Jonesville APEX Crew Visits the CVT!

© Jerry F. Couch

Those of you who know me are aware of the importance I place upon the annual APEX (Appalachian Experience) service trips by St. Joseph’s University students to our community. The last regular trip from Philadelphia to the St. Paul area took place in 2020. That trip was abbreviated when the students were called back to SJU due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. In 2021, SJU continued its APEX program, but it was limited in scope with no service sites in Southwest Virginia.

For 2022, the APEX program once again sent service groups to localities in the Appalachian region. However, I was told that St. Paul was not a destination this year due to a scheduling issue. For me, this was disappointing because I have been actively involved in this program since 2012 – the program’s first year in St. Paul.

Soooooo….imagine my surprise when I received a message from Brandon Talisesky (long-term APEX student participant and now an adult facilitator) asking if the Jonesville group could visit me on Thursday, March 19th. Well, I could have jumped for joy – and of course the answer was YES!

While I readied the students’ meal, my friend Cody got the CVT office in shape for the dinner and by 5:00, everything was set. The table was ready, the food was warming in the oven, and the traditional St. Paul Carrot Cake was ready to be served. I was watching the clock and when that big white van arrived, I could have jumped for joy!

APEX PARTICIPANTS AT JONESVILLE

The Jonesville APEX group were participating in a Appalachia Service Project to weatherize a home by adding insulation and siding. Even though they had put in a long day of hard work, the students were still willing to make the long drive to St. Paul, a community they had heard much about from former APEX participants. I took the students to the St. Paul Virginia Railroad Museum for a quick tour and showed them photos of St. Paul during its bygone days while sharing some local history

AT THE ST. PAUL VIRGINIA RAILROAD MUSEUM
BRANDON TALISESKY, JERRY COUCH, AND JESSICA ARNOLD

Our simple meal was quickly consumed and the students helped gather up the dirty dishes and put things away.

PHOTOS BY CODY FORSYTHE

A part of every APEX visit includes after-hours group discussion, or “reflections” of the students’ experiences that day. Personal insights are shared, and it’s a bonding experience. The durability of those bonds is confirmed by the way the St. Paul APEX group members of ten years ago remain in contact to this day. In fact, two couples from that trip have since married. One of the couples has a small son – who is a crackerjack! Proof that good things DO happen in St. Paul.

All too soon, it was time for the students to leave. The joy of that day has not left ME, however. It’s still glowing!

TO BE CONTINUED NEXT YEAR…

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