James Crace

Personal Statement for College Application

By James Crace

James Crace

July 27, 2013

I live by three simple rules.
1. If you do not go after what you want, you will never have it.
2. If you do not step forward, you will always be in the same place.
3. If you do not ask, the answer will always be no.

These three rules I learned from UDSAP (University of Dayton Summer Appalachia Program). Every summer since 1964, UD has sent 14 students and 1 Marianist Brother to Salyersville, Kentucky in the heart of Appalachia. Their mission is to form community, grow in faith, and do a service to my county’s community, while constantly living in simplicity. I came to better understand the word simplicity by observing their daily routine — sharing a plain 1920s farmhouse, the garden they raise in the backyard, and lack of cell phones, computers or televisions in the house: they share genuine conversations over cups of tea, community prayers, lake showers, and often admire the unexplainable stars as a perfect night light. UDSAP runs a day camp for our youth at the town park, a teen center at their house, and a program at the local nursing home with bingo and personal visits.

UDSAPers, which is what we call them, can be described with many words including adventurous, understanding, passionate, hospitable, faithful, and many more. UDSAP is a feeling, which makes it hard to describe with words. As a child I learned how to be free and have fun without focusing on my tough home life. As a teen I learned respect, love, and how to open up because they would intently listen. I did not come from a wealthy family; I grew up in a two bedroom trailer with my two sisters, my younger brother, my mother, and my grandfather, who was my main role model after my father left when I was five. I thought for the longest time that surviving on food stamps, disability checks, and odd jobs would be my life forever. UDSAP helped me realize that my potential is bigger than Magoffin County, and I do not have to stay there to be proud of being from there. Most of my encouragement to choose happiness, go after what I want, and chase my dreams came from the UDSAPers rather than my friends and family.

Being nineteen during the summer of 2010 was technically my last summer in teen center. I cringed at the thought of my adventures with UDSAP ending so I intentionally devoted my free time to being a part of each summer after graduating the program. Two weeks into the summer of 2011 the new group asked me to join their community as an honorary UDSAPer, taking part in every program and living with them, which has never happened for any other Salyersville resident. They appointed me as one of the four teen center leaders because I am kind, understanding, persistent, and most importantly I can relate to the often rough and rowdy teens of Salyersville. During teen center meetings I gave insight into what the teens needed the most as far as self-esteem and team-building activities. I made my step forward from a day camper, to a teen, to a teen center leader, learning about these people and about myself along the way. I came to appreciate my own individuality and others’ uniqueness, and I realized the strongest people you meet are the ones who have lived a hard life and can still smile, open up, and be themselves.

During the writing process of this statement, I was reminded, time and again, of a quote from a classic folk song called Wagon Wheel that states, “I ain’t a turnin back to livin that old life no more.” I am ready to live, not just survive.

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by Charissa Qui  UDSAP '11

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