Meet Amanda Bolaños: Appalachia Volunteer

While many seniors jetted off to Punta Cana to celebrate their quickly-approaching graduation, Amanda Bolaños MCAS ‘18 was spending her spring break in a significantly less luxurious location: Sumter, South Carolina. Amanda has been involved with Boston College’s Appalachia Volunteer program, known as “Appa”, since her freshman year, but chose to challenge herself in a new way, taking on the responsibility of being a Trip Leader. Her love of inspiring others, as well as her genuine enjoyment of service was made clear as I got to speak with her about her experience with Appa.

Beginning her freshman year, Amanda has gone on five Appalachia Volunteer trips, including dedicating one of her summers to the program; these locations include McKee, Kentucky, Ivanhoe, Virginia, Weirwood, Virginia and Detroit, Michigan, as well as her recent South Carolina trip. However, it is this last location which Amanda feels has impacted her most significantly, saying, “It was a Habitat [for Humanity] trip and the organization was very intentional with how our trip was structured. It was amazing through Habitat for Humanity and it was amazing to meet the family [whose house we were building] and have dinner with them a couple times that week.” The genuine intention Bolaños has behind each of her acts of service is evident, as she expressed strong desire to meet the people whose home she was building, to speak with them and learn from them. For Amanda, Appa is not just about doing the proverbial “right thing” or being proud of your own handiwork, but rather “the intentional conversations the trip inspires, and how those conversations continue back when the groups return BC. It is a challenging week because there is a lot of vulnerability from the community as well as with group members, but that vulnerability leads to authenticity.”

 

While Amanda dismissed my mention of her role as a leader saying, “The biggest difference [between a leader and a participant] is planning the logistics of the trip and the reflections each night”, this is simply a testament to her humility. She praises Appa for giving her good company, conversation partners, and a community, but it certainly takes a certain kind of trip leader to cultivate such an honest and loving environment. However, she instead thanks her fellow participants, remarking, “These people have characteristics that I value dearly, such as hard work, humility, and humor. These are the values I strive for everyday.”

Although I myself have not participated in Appa, it is very clearly an influential experience for many. This practical application of Jesuit ideas of service can be seen so clearly manifested in Amanda’s life at Boston College. The Perspectives and Political Science major credits Appa for her social justice development, saying, “[It] brought out the best of me and made me find a home at BC. I am forever grateful for the challenging yet eye-opening weeks I had all over the Appalachian region, for the community of intentional and conversations partners, and for my mindset that has now been in shaped through the lens of social justice because of the Appa mission.”

Just as leaving upon graduation this spring is bittersweet for Amanda, her absence, and the absence of so many trip leaders like her, will be bittersweet for the Boston College community. Her dedication to intentional service and the community building aspects of Appa are evidence of the Jesuit mission of Boston College at work.

 

Photos courtesy of Amanda Bolaños!