Matt Lenahan is a pretty busy guy. As a member of the business fraternity, a hawk host, and a senior gearing up for graduation, his schedule is packed—to put it mildly. But here on the porch of Wolfington house, Matt’s pretty chilled out. He’s calm but enthusiastic as he talks about his favorite experience from his four years at SJU: APEX.
APEX, or Appalachian Experience, is a spring break service-immersion trip to the Appalachia region of America. It’s also insanely popular here at SJU. So popular that the 500 available slots filled up last year in under 30 minutes.
Matt is a veteran of sorts. This is his fourth year going on APEX and his second year serving as a leader. Matt’s interest in APEX actually started before he even came to Saint Joe’s. Matt’s older brother went on APEX when he was a freshman and a sophomore, and Matt saw a lot of change in him after he went. So Matt decided to go and see if he could get the same thing out of APEX that his brother did.
So as a freshman, Matt signed up for APEX. He’s done it every year since. Matt explained, “Each experience is different. You can get something new out of it each time.”
As a participant, Matt immersed himself in the rural Appalachian community. He discussed how service was used as a tool to learn about rural America. He explained that their learning was rooted in aspects of Jesuit spirituality, as well as social justice.
As a leader, Matt was able to get a new perspective: “I taught myself to be a different kind of leader. I went from being a task-oriented leader to a more relationship based one. It helped me to teach myself to adapt to different circumstances and situations.”
Not only did Matt learn about himself and about social justice, but he personally interacted with members of these rural towns. One community member stuck out in particular to Matt: “ In St. Paul, Virginia we met Jerry. He was the backbone of town spirit and he really was what kept the town going. He had so much pride in where he came from, who he was, and how he could grow.”
The sign up for Apex is in two days. When I asked Matt why people should sign up for APEX, he immediately answered: “Saint Joe’s Bucket List,” but he went on to say, “Personally, you get this bubble effect in college. Everything you need is in the palm of your hand. APEX gives you the chance to expand that bubble.”