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ASPiRE Students' Energy Leaves Lasting Impact in Rural Tennessee

“I use one of the stories from ASPiRE’s work in my messages to churches,” said Linda Stransky, executive director of the Jubilee Project, Inc. “The group helped a woman clean out her house, and they ended up doing a house makeover for her (floors, painting, bathroom). The fact that they cared about her and wanted to work so hard to make her life better really had an impact on her.  Her family said that she opened up, and her depression improved. I think the students’ energy is a big benefit to our program.”
ASPiRE students participate in Alternative Spring Break

This March marked the 6th year ASPiRE has partnered with the Jubilee Project, in Hancock County, Tenn. Eight ASPiRE students traveled during spring break this year to Sneedville, Tenn. to help the Jubilee Project in its mission of “helping the people of Hancock County meet their spiritual, economic, social and physical needs.”

With the help of local contractor Tim Woodward, ASPiRE students spent this spring break working to repair flooring in a woman’s home damaged by flooding issues. Jubilee Project Outreach Coordinator Monte Emerson said the organization receives applications for local residents for help with home repairs that pose a risk to health and safety. The students interact with the homeowner while learning construction skills from Woodward. On past trips, they have worked on plumbing, repaired and replaced floors and walls (inside and out), painted, rebuilt a ramp, put in insulation, replaced windows and built a doghouse .

“We want the students to have a ‘real’ experience of what it's like to live here, and hopefully coming to see the reality of a poor county allows the students to broaden their life perspectives and understanding of others,” said Stransky. “I hope it inspires them to continue helping others.”

In addition to their volunteer work, ASPiRE students were able to disconnect over “old-school” board games, pizza dinners out and driving out to see the sunset at a scenic overlook. Nerice Lochansky, ASPiRE assistant director, said the trip provides students the opportunity for connection and service in ways that aren’t possible in ASPiRE’s regular model of co-curricular engagement.

“Students get to travel to a rural environment and explore community assets and challenges that can be simultaneously similar and different to what they experience in Richmond,” Lochansky said. “They have an enriching experience that also helps them develop leadership skills, problem solve, gain self confidence, connect with peers and learn more about themselves. This experience broadens their scope of the world around them, and in some instances, it can even shape future career directions.”

For more information, contact Lochansky at nlochansky@vcu.edu. View all the photos from the trip.