Students for 60,000: My Trip To West Virginia

This+year%2C+Students+for+60%2C000+completed+a+trip+to+the+small%2C+impoverished+town+of+Kermit%2C+West+Virginia.+

This year, Students for 60,000 completed a trip to the small, impoverished town of Kermit, West Virginia.

Grace Mulroy, Freelancer

Students for 60,000 is a humanitarian club at Northport High School that works to help and empower those in need. During a normal year, Students for 60,000 would make two service trips, one to Kenya and another to Nicaragua. However, these aren’t normal times. 

This year, Students for 60,000 instead completed a trip to the small, impoverished town of Kermit, West Virginia. 

Day One 

Day one was a travel day. Everyone got to the high school around 4:40am. After that, we hopped on the bus and hit the road. We arrived at Penn Station around 5:40 in the morning. 

Twenty hours later, we finally made it to Huntington, West Virginia. The only thing left to do now was to get to our hotel in nearby Kermit. 

We used two vehicles in West Virginia. A white minivan (which will now be referred to as ‘the dad van’) and a large, black SUV (‘the mom van’). The drive from Huntington to Kermit was about two hours long, so we all braced ourselves for yet another long trip. After what felt like forever, we arrived at Mountaineer hotel in Kermit.

Day Two

Day two was our first day of activities. During breakfast, we met Marleen. Marleen runs a free after-school program for kids in kindergarten to 8th grade called A.B.L.E Families. This organization is important as roughly 20% of the people in Kermit live below the poverty line. 

That day, Marleen took us on a tour of Kermit. Everyone piled into the ‘dad van’ and set off. Seeing the full town of Kermit was heart-wrenching. Dirty trailers, broken bottles, stray dogs—it was truly hard to watch. After the tour, we started driving to A.B.L.E Families to help with the kids. 

When we arrived, the kids were in circle time. During circle time, Mrs. Paquet and Marleen pulled me aside. They told me later that day, the kids would be having an Easter egg hunt, and they wanted me to be the Easter Bunny. 

We played with the kids at the park until they were brought home. After that, we went to a community potluck with the local social organization, Crossroads, in attendance. Crossroads is an abstinence rehab group that helps women overcome their struggles with addiction. 

The food was delicious and the discussion was eye-opening. 

Not only did we learn about the struggles of Kermit, but we also uncovered some problems in Northport. Our town also has a very severe drug problem, however, we choose to sweep our issues under the rug. In Kermit, the opioid crisis is openly discussed, providing more opportunities for restoration.

Day Three

We started day three by going to Tug Valley High School with plans to discuss the comparisons between the town of Kermit and our own. It was shocking to me just how similar our two communities are. 

Just as we were about to leave, one student from an agriculture class came up to us and asked if we would like to join them in the school greenhouse. We gave them an emphatic ‘yes.’ The agricultural class at Tug Valley High School plants vegetables to sell back to their community which is typically deprived of quality food. 

It was a strange fact to learn that Kermit, West Virginia was so similar, yet so different from Northport, New York. I’m happy to come away from this trip with so many life lessons. ”

— Grace Mulroy

Soon after, we went back to A.B.L.E Families, where there was one little girl present that particularly struck me (let’s call her Daisy). Daisy was only five years old and had already been through more hardships than most adults. She lived in a one-room trailer with her mother, sister, and drug-addicted father. Not only this, her teeth were rotting because her family could not afford to take her to the dentist. 

Despite all of this, she was the sweetest, most caring person I’d ever met. You would never know she was living through nightmares.

Day Four 

On day four, we painted a strip club (I’m partially joking). In reality, there was an abandoned building that used to be an adult club but was too expensive to tear down. Ergo, one of Marleen’s friends, thought it would be the perfect space for a family restaurant with live music. We made quick work of this project, painting almost all four walls in two hours. 

Following this, we all went to Marleen’s church to learn more about the culture of the state. Kermit, West Virginia lands in the Bible Belt, so many of its residents are Christian. 

After entering the church, the pastor welcomed us to his parish. He asked if any of us played the piano. I raised my hand, and he pointed to a small piano in the corner of the church, asking if I wanted to play. I was shocked, but went up to the piano. I briefly spoke with the guitarist, and together we played a short song. It was so enjoyable performing music with other people.

The service started and I went back to my seat. The pastor preached joyously, with the congregation embracing his energy. The room was filled with the shouting of praises and prayers. It was a beautiful experience.

Day Five

Day five was our last day of activities. We returned to Tug Valley High School to finish our discussion. I am grateful I was able to partake in this conversation; it genuinely changed my perspective.

After the discussion, the kids invited us to their music class, which we accepted. That day, they were learning how to play the mandolin. I enjoyed learning another instrument, and hope to play it again soon.

After leaving the high school, we had dinner at a KFC. There, I was introduced to the Tug Valley High School baseball team. They would be joining us at a Bluegrass concert. 

In all honesty, I thought this concert was going to be boring, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was fun singing and dancing with all my friends.

Day Six

Day six was another travel day. We said goodbye to Marleen at the station and got on the train around 6:00 in the morning. I was so sad to say goodbye to this amazing state; I was also happy to walk away with so many new memories.

It was a strange fact to learn that Kermit, West Virginia was so similar, yet so different from Northport, New York. I’m happy to come away from this trip with so many life lessons.