I’m not sure if it is this specific group of people or just the magic of Mullens, but I feel as if I have known every single one of the 15 people on this trip ,my whole life. We have intense card competitions, sing ( a lot), and laugh with (and at) each other. Not only has it been awesome to make close friends this fast ,but it makes the service we are doing here less “work” oriented. Today we all worked on digging an irrigation system, we used the mulcher we fundraised for, and built some beds for future gardens. Sitting here tonight, typing this blog, my muscles are crying out to me in exhaustion. I spent most of my day shoveling dirt, pushing wheelbarrows up steep hills and back down, using a pickaxe to break up very rocky soil and probably a bunch of other activities I blocked out of my memory. What made the hard work a million times better was definitely because of the people I was doing it with. We kept our spirits high and full of laughs. It was encouragement for each other but also for the few American Core volunteers to open us around us. Talking and joking over a dirt pile, our conversations began to get a little more serious. The two volunteers we were with were about the same age as us and were only from a town over. I started getting nosy and asked questions about their lives. One of the boys started saying how he is “stuck” in Mullens. That word “stuck” created so many questions in my head. How can one person be “stuck” in one place. I traveled 3 1/2 hours from Buffalo, NY to Pittsburgh, PA for school and after I graduate I have the opportunity to move anywhere I would like (or get a job). So, to answer these questions, I asked him why he feels “stuck”. He explained that he just bought a home here and that the class room just isn’t for him. Both boys actually expressed an interest in at least one subject but they didn’t really like any other aspect of school or didn’t know what they would study in college. I tried to explain that many students don’t declare a major right away and how my undergrad classes (aka organic chemistry) were the death of me. Nothing seemed to phase their thought process and they are set on being “stuck” in Mullens, WV. This conversation made me realize how important education is for getting “unstuck”. I realized how blessed I am for growing up in an amazing school district, how amazing my parents are for encouraging my education and that they allowed me to travel outside of my hometown. The culture down here views something that seems so simple to me , like education, as a rarity and means a lot more to them than it ever did to me. Tomorrow morning I am definitely going to be sore, but every shovel, and every wheelbarrow full of dirt was worth it.