Last week, the Senior class returned from its eight-day community service trip to West Virginia, the first time a Dublin class has gone to this part of the country. The class, along with faculty members Jesse Jackson, Rebecca Beauzay, Jason Cox and Jung Yun, crammed into two of the Dublin School buses and drove fifteen hours to the Southern Appalachian Labor School. There, they spent the nights in a renovated old church, which consisted of one large room filled with bunk beds.
Dr. Bill Horton, a tutor at Dublin School, had provided the connection to this school. On their website, http://www.sals.info/, the School states: “The mission of the Southern Appalachian Labor School (SALS) is to provide education, research, and linkages for working class and disenfranchised peoples in order to promote understanding, empowerment, and change. The Southern Appalachian Labor School is committed to developing a real comprehension of the social, economic, and legal structures which affect the lives of the Appalachian People.” Our students explained that some of the programs included education about healthy eating, as childhood obesity is a major issue in the state, as well as GED and vocational courses to help many high-school drop-outs.
For the community service component of the trip, the seniors participated in several projects, included the renovation of a church that had been abandoned for twenty years. They cleaned the walls and floor and painted; Sola Aderonmu said, “It was really important to bring it back and make it usable for their community again.” They also worked on building a community hummingbird garden, and said that this provided an emotional moment: “The woman we were working for cried when we put the first plant in.” They also worked on renovating the nearby Oak Hills School.
Among their extracurricular activities, the seniors got to know both the environmental and social dimensions of West Virginia. They visited famous landmarks, such as the large curve bridge over the New River, a coal-mining museum, and attended a local Music Festival and Culture Day.
After walking around the town a few times, they met many of the locals, and they also spent time with the children who attended after-school programs at the Labor School. One afternoon, they even challenged local young men to a pick-up game of basketball, which they caught on camera (and be sure to ask a senior about the episode with Jiawei and the rattlesnake!).
After their time at the Appalachian Labor School, the group packed up and headed to Virginia Beach for some time to relax by the ocean before driving back to Dublin.
When asked what they learned on their trip, Meredith Hoffman said: “I learned not to judge a book by its cover. Some of the people we met looked a little scary or different, but they turned out to be the sweetest people.” Cynthia Clark added, “I went there thinking that the people there would be less intelligent, but all of the people we met had dreams and aspirations just like us.”