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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Capturing the heart of APEX

Meg Kloss ’19 and Nicole Walters ’20 react to the “APEX: The Appalachian Experience” on March 19.

Documentary debuted to campus community

A group of participants in the Appalachian Experience Program (APEX) debuted a documentary they created to capture the essence of the week-long volunteer program.

About 500 St. Joe’s students participate in APEX each spring break, travelling to one of 18 sites to serve communities within the Appalachian region.

Some participants create short videos to document their experience and share with other students after returning to campus. On March 19, the entire campus community had the opportunity to watch one film together, titled “APEX: The Appalachian Experience.”

The film was directed by Jeffrey Wallin ’10, APEX participant, leader and facilitator since 2007, and produced by Matt Fullmer, campus minister and Appalachian Experience director.  

Fullmer said the inspiration for this film was the students’ personal videos. The documentary was meant to capture the entirety of the program, according to Fullmer.

“The videos showed some of the camaraderie, the fellowship, the spirit of what our students do,” Fullmer said.

Wallin first thought about creating the film in fall 2014, because the program had made such an impact on his life. However, Wallin said he struggled with how exactly to encompass the entirety of the trip.

“We wanted to capture heart of the trip to the heart of America,” Wallin said. “This included the fellowship with the people in Appalachia.”

The filming process began in 2016 when Wallin used his own equipment to film shots of the town of Floyd, Virginia. Fullmer, his father Frank Fullmer, Ben Ellis, Dan Moretz and Mike Gallagher, all members of the media services team at St. Joe’s at the time, set out to document the relationship between St. Joe’s students and the communities at five different sites: Neon, Kentucky, Honaker, Virginia, West Jefferson, North Carolina, Alleghany Highlands, Virginia and Saint Paul, Virginia.

The first edit of the film came out in September 2018, and we showed it to a room of about 15 people and sent it to our community partners,” Fullmer said. “We received a lot of feedback, for which we are grateful, because we wanted to ensure that it truly represented the partnership.”

There were seven more edits to the film since the first showing, which included adding music, as well as arranging and editing clips together.

Rob Focht ’19, an APEX leader who traveled to Alleghany Highlands, Virginia this year, said Wallin intricately crafted the film and enhanced the overall story of the program.

“It was really wholistic and really well told,” Focht said. “[Wallin] showcased the impact that the students have. But more importantly, the impact the community has on the students.”

Glenda Lane, a community partner from Saint Paul, Virginia, said the APEX film and the program can bring people together to realize their commonalities.

“It’s true that it’s like two different worlds, but we’re all the same people.” Lane said. “I hope that this film will encourage up and coming students to experience Appalachia for themselves.”

Fullmer said he hopes to enter the documentary into film festivals to spread the message that encompasses both the film and the APEX program.

“We want to spread the message about social justice, service, community partnerships and breaking down walls,” Fullmer said.

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