Blogging Glendora, Mississippi - 2018

Bill Fisher
Shore's Grade 9 students spend a week every fall on a service learning trip to Glendora, Mississippi, where they assist local residents served by Ipswich-based Partners in Development. The trip is one many graduates describe as having been the most transformative experience of their Shore careers. The students post daily blog reflections about their travels and the work they are doing.

The trip, now in its third year, is managed by the Ipswich nonprofit Partners in Development (PID). According to the organization's founder and president Gale Hull, "We are going to a place where the population for generations has felt that their lives have been controlled and dominated by others. There is much entrenched hopelessness, depression, and inertia. We have been entrusted with a huge responsibility. As the pioneers working in Glendora, we are still very much about trust and relationship building."

The students, accompanied by faculty members Walter Morris, Pamela Torres, and Ruth Bauer, work on constructing a house for a family in need, and complete other smaller projects as needed. In past years, for example, ninth graders have cleared brush and repurposed abandoned playground equipment to fill a new play space in Glendora. 

At the start of their trip, the students stop in Memphis, Tennessee, to visit the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, where they absorb some of the history of the important social justice issues they study while in Mississippi and in their history classroom back at Shore.

DAY ONE: By Ivan, Audrey, and Charlie
Most of us got the airport at 4:30 a.m., but a few stragglers were late and nearly missed the plane because of security. We boarded the plane and got settled for a very long and tedious flight that would last for about four hours. Once the plane finally landed in Houston, Texas, we rushed on to the next plane which would take us to Memphis. This plane ride was much shorter. As we were leaving that plane, Jerry unfortunately forgot his daypack on the plane and security wouldn’t let him back on! Luckily, Walker saved the day and was able to retrieve it. We then walked to the PID bus and made our way to Central BBQ for a tasty and filling meal. The Civil Rights Museum was the next stop, and it was one we won’t forget. It was amazing yet unsettling to be in the vicinity where MLK was killed. We spent about two hours walking through the museum. Our final transport was the bus ride to Glendora. It took two long hours accompanied by very welcome sleep. We passed miles of cotton fields, some picked and some as white as snow. We finally arrived and the boys settled themselves in the community center whilst the girls unpacked in the bed & breakfast. Some of the Glendora children waved to the girls through the windows. We’re excited to meet them tomorrow. After a nice dinner, all of us went upstairs to hang out and unwind from the day. Tomorrow will be filled with great work and exciting memories.

DAY TWO: By Walker, Sarah, and Amelia
We woke to the sound of rain pounding on the roof, and a few people at the B&B had some leaks in their rooms. The community center, where the boys are sleeping, also had some leaks, but everyone was fine. Because of the rain and our long day yesterday, we got to sleep in till 7:30. The people who were supposed to work on the foundation for the new house were indoors sawing and drilling the frame pieces. Two other groups worked in the kitchen with Lady making apple cobblers and cards for elderly people in the area, while others folded clothes for people who had a fire in their house, prepped an apartment to be painted, and made desserts for kids to decorate. Later several of us helped deliver the cobblers around town and got to see what Glendora is like. The rest of us got to watch Gravity on Mr. Morris’s computer while the deliveries were finished up. Unfortunately the weather kept us from playing with the local kids today, but hopefully we will tomorrow. For dinner we had delicious BBQ chicken, mashed potatoes, cornbread, and vegetables. Lady is an amazing cook! Soon we will go to bed and get a good night’s sleep for a day of hard work and fun tomorrow.

DAY THREE: By Grace, Paulina, and Anja
The morning started off colder than usual. As we stumbled down the stairs to breakfast, we could smell the freshly baked pancakes. The smell of bacon wafted through the whole B & B. We divided into groups: some went on a field trip, some stayed in Glendora, and others worked at house number 3 in Phillip. The people on the field trip visited the Emmett Till museum and learned about the court trial. We also explored the Native American dirt mounds and climbed a tall structure for a view of the Mississippi River. In Glendora, in the morning, some of us started on the frames for the footings on house 4. We had to drill each piece of plywood to a 2” by 4”. Then we had to carry the two 42’ pieces and the two 30’ pieces into place. This was especially difficult as we were freezing cold. At 10 o’clock, we all sprinted back to the B & B to put on two more long-sleeved shirts, another pair of socks, another jacket, and two more pairs of pants. For the rest of the day, the group in Glendora leveled the form and made supports so that it would be stable for the pouring of the concrete. At Phillip, we sanded. We sanded, sanded, sanded, and sanded some more. Our instructor, Irving, was not an easy inspector. He had us re-sand almost all of the rooms until the walls were as smooth as a baby’s butt! Once everyone got back, we played with the kids in Glendora. There was tutoring, arts and crafts, and basketball. We got to know many kids well, including Lady’s son, Jakeen. Many of the kids had fun playing matchmaker with the ninth graders. After Lady’s delicious pulled pork dinner, we settled down to watch The Incredibles 2 and then journal. Soon it was time for bed, and everyone was exhausted and fell right asleep.

DAY FOUR: By Aidan, Erynn, and Hope
Today the girls woke up to the smell of grits. After reluctantly rolling out of our warm beds, the cold became menacing. Some resorted to as many as three layers of socks . It was just as cold for the boys. Everyone was hungry. After a somewhat late start, we were quickly split into three groups: mounds, Glendora construction, and Phillipp painting. Those who were heading to the Mississippi River, as well as the mounds, hopped in a white van. Bull, our cheerful driver, drove the ten of us for a total of three hours all around the western part of Mississippi. Not too long into the drive, snow flakes starting zipping past us. It was snowing in Glendora, something that most of us weren’t expecting. The construction group faced brutal winds and frigid temperatures as they were trying to set the framework for the foundation of the new house. Trying to keep their hands from going numb, ninth graders kept themselves warm by shoveling and drilling screws into various pieces of wood. It was much harder to get the frame leveled than anticipated. After a much-wanted break, featuring hot chocolate and apple pie, the construction crew set out to complete their work. Meanwhile, the group arriving at the Mississippi River was shocked, as it did not seem like a river but more like a lake. Convincing Mrs. Bauer to conquer her fear of heights, everyone climbed to the top of a local structure to see the view. Once everyone returned home, we learned that the Glendora children had been released early from school, due to the minimal snow. This afternoon Mrs. Bauer, Camilla, Anja, Sophia, and Melina worked with a large number of Glendora girls who wanted to draw and bead. Mr. Morris returned to Phillipp with Alanna, Sarah, Cam, and Audrey for a very productive painting session. Irving complimented the crew for their work and told them that it was the first time it had snowed before Thanksgiving in his or his mother's memory. In the midst of heading out to play with the children, Jerry got stung by a wasp, his first time! He seems fine, though. After dinner, Gale and Lady are going to talk to us about PID and life in Mississippi.