Students immerse themselves in Appalachian culture

Posted by Spalding Hurst

January 13, 2022

Bethlehem High School is taking a three-week winter term with their teacher, Brigid Manion, to learn about the music, art, history, and life in Appalachia. Some of the exposure so far has been, reading a novel together, making and playing the dulcimer, clogging, and through partnering with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, visiting an Appalachia area of Kentucky.

As part of the SCN volunteer program, Sister Luke Boiarski and Ellen Sprigg spent time with the class to orient them on Appalachian culture, showed them a documentary, took them hiking at Natural Bridge State Park, and traveled to Beattyville, Kentucky, to meet Dora Ross from Kentucky Cornerstone Ministry.

Miss Dora, who has lived in Beattyville her whole life and runs an outreach ministry that reaches out to several counties, told them about growing up in the mountains and the importance of faith, family, community service, and staying on the right path in life. The students were very engaged in hearing Miss Dora’s testimony, the hardships she faced, and how God leads her in all she does.

Growing up with no electricity, washing clothes by hand, planting and harvesting their own food, and learning to sew her own clothes at nine years old, were some of the stories Miss Dora shared. She showed the students how to use a loom where she makes rugs from scrap material and sells them for the ministry. “There ain’t nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to it!”, she told the students.

One of the questions from a student to Miss Dora was, “What do you love about living in the mountains and what has been your greatest joy in life?”

She replied, “I love the peacefulness. I can walk on this hill and hear and see and smell and touch all of God’s beauty every day.” After a long pause, she said, “My greatest joy in life is helping others.”


  1. Mary Anna Riley

    I am so impressed with the way the Charity Sisters involve their students in real-life situations. It is obvious that the students are curious enough to enjoy their involvement and allow it to change them. These young people will be affected for life. God bless!

  2. Kitty Wooldridge

    Wonderful way for the students to be exposed to their Kentucky culture.

  3. Elizabeth Field

    This story, Luke and Ellen, brings a great sense of peace and joy to me as I read about this exposure of these Bethlehem students! I am thinking of how their awareness of a the Appalachian people – a culture other than their own – will make a difference in our world! These students will never forget this experience and, as they interact with others, help to spread a better understanding and fight prejudice.
    Great work and creative ministry!

  4. Maggie Cooper

    What a beautiful way to experience another culture!! Miss Dora is a wonderful teacher as she tells her story and shares her values. Of course, Sr. Luke and Ellen are very special tour guides!!

  5. Bev Hoffman,SCN

    Great creativity used as well as experiential learning! It brought a smile as I remembered my ministry in Eastern Ky. Such a rich culture!

  6. Barbara Joseph Lammers

    What an education and creative way to learn. Classrooms will never teach all these weeks did. Congratulations for the creativity.


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