Today was the first day of service on our trip in the panhandle and I can wholeheartedly say this is already one of the best experiences of my life. After an early breakfast, we gathered in front of our rooms to choose our groups for our individual groups that would later be split up for different projects. We had to pick a card that matched one of the two groups and once it was my turn to choose, I realized all my closest friends were in the same group. I remember wanting to so badly be in the same group as them; however, I was put into the group of kids I did not know so well. To be completely honest, I was a bit uncomfortable on the car ride over with kids I wasn’t as close with and I did not know how the rest of my day would roll out. To my surprise, I had an incredible time and I was able to become fast friends with everyone in my group. From ripping screws from the walls to measuring pieces of drywall that definitely did not fit the space, I was smiling the entire time. I loved learning about the construction process of homes and realizing I was surprisingly good with a power drill. I think the best part about this trip is that even though we are doing hard work, we are having an incredible time along the way. Today we danced and laughed till we cried and maybe shed a tear when we used the wrong type of drywall, but overall, it was a blast. To make such amazing friends on a trip rooted in service is quite honestly a dream. This program has opened my eyes to so much in my community and the world around me and has taught me so much about the leader I am and the leader I strive to be. Seeing the strong sense of community in the panhandle, even in the face of such travesty, is so inspirational and even empowering. The more I get to know my peers, the more I think of them less like friends and more like a forever family. These kids are truly the best of the best and I am so incredibly lucky to learn and laugh with them while creating a lasting impact on the lives of the people around us.

– Kyle Hamilton