Travis  Alvarez of New Jersey makes a third trip to WV for community service work.West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Columbia students on community service spring break

By Suzanne Higgins March 21, 2011

A group of Columbia University students chose to pass up a trip to the beach last week for an alternative Spring Break in the coalfields of southern West Virginia.

While one’s interested in math, another in neuroscience and another in creative writing, these urban dwellers began their vacation from school by clearing an over-grown hillside near the Raleigh County coal town of Stotesbury.


The seven students from New York City took part in an ongoing community service program sponsored by the Rural Appalachian Improvement League. The agency is based in Mullens and brings teams of volunteers into the Winding Gulf Coalfield for work on community-selected projects

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click to view this video 3/18/11 Alternative Spring Break

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Volunteers are a vital part of RAIL's success. We are SEEKING VOLUNTEERS! Please contact us if you want to make a difference and join our remarkable work teams.

In September 2010 RAIL volunteers began initiating a plan to invigorate Community and Economic development in the southern coalfields of West Virginia. In the past ten years RAIL has studied the needs of families in Appalachia as well as available resources and other accessible opportunities that can help their community become sustainable. Gaining a better understanding of what is needed has culminated in the Coal Heritage Trail of New Commerce Action Plan. Those implementing this plan, an organization at the grass roots, well understand their work cannot be successful without the help of volunteers and generous resources providers. Anyone interested in participating in this bold undertaking of helping families living in the Appalachian coalfields improve their economic and social conditions may contact for more information. RAIL gets its name from Rural Appalachian Improvement League, Inc. and can best be described as Volunteers coming together as an organization to find ways to best benefit their community

March 18, 2011

Alternative Spring Break
click to view this video