Grade 9 in Glendora

Bill Fisher
On November 15, Grade 9 students traveled to Glendora, MS, for a week-long service learning trip that offers first-hand experience with important social justice issues in the United States.

Managed by the Ipswich-based non-profit Partners in Development, the Glendora project will have the ninth graders helping to construct a house for a needy family. 

According to Partners in Development'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, reflect on their experiences each day of the trip in a series of blog posts written in the field. 

Day 1: Travel - by Victoria Carlson

Bright and early, the ninth grade class, accompanied by Mrs. Bauer, Mrs. Torres, and Mr. Morris, departed from Logan Airport. We had a quick flight, only about an hour to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where we roamed a little and collected a bit of breakfast for those who were hungry, then departed for Memphis. Our second flight was almost three hours. Safely in Memphis, Patrick from Partners in Development picked us up. We saw the Mississippi River and toured a bit of Memphis. From there we drove to Central BBQ for a spectacular lunch. Everyone left stuffed on ribs or pulled pork that was cooked to perfection. Walking a block away, we waited outside of the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel until it opened at one o'clock. The National Civil Rights Museum is mostly all about slavery and the civil rights movement, but one specific part is dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. The museum is located at the Lorraine Motel, where King was shot. After an information-packed self-guided tour taking up almost four hours, the drive to Glendora began. There was one striking difference to driving at night in Glendora, Mississippi, and in Wenham, Massachusetts, and it was not the flat landscape or the lack of buildings. The difference that I noticed first was the lack of lights. All I could see were the streetlights that seemed to be placed near small groups of houses sparsely placed along the road. Once we reached our B&B we were greeted by a few smiling faces. Our rooms exceeded our expectations. After a dinner of salad and casserole, we had a quick informational meeting about what to expect tomorrow. All of us were ready to crash and were excited for the tasks tomorrow may hold.

Day 2: Glendora - by John Makowski

Our first work day in Mississippi consisted of a variety of activities. Probably the most important was putting insulation into the house we are helping to build. I myself was tasked with stapling insulation into the frame of the house. In addition to this painstaking job, we helped to install the windows. Judging from her countenance, Gale, the director of Partners in Development, was happy with the progress of the house. Along the way we met a seven-year-old boy called Elmo. At first he was a bit skeptical, but he came around to being quite gregarious. Towards the end of the day when the local kids were coming back from school we played a massive football game, in which kids of all sizes and skills played. A highlight for me was going to buy a 2 liter bottle of Dr. Pepper. I am glad to say that Dr. Pepper is quite popular in Mississippi. Tomorrow we hope to finish doing the insulation and maybe start to put the siding on the house. 

Day 3: Glendora - by Catrina Caruso

Today in Mississippi we continued on the progress of the house. Although it was a windy day we were able to put the sliding doors into the side of the house, nail all the windows in, finish the insolation, and begin to nail up the soffit holders. Mid-day we took a short break and walked to the center of town. Here we saw the “Welcome to Glendora” sign, the post office, the general store, several Emmitt Till memorial signs, and a number of homes. Walking through this part of town gave me a different view of life in Glendora. After our walk we ate a nice lunch then headed back to the work site. After a few more hours of working we took the massive, not-to-mention super heavy, pieces of dry wall into the house to protect them from the 40 mph winds and heavy rain that is expected tonight. Tomorrow we hope to start with putting up the dry wall and perhaps some siding! 

Day 4: Glendora - by Michael Carroll

Wednesday was a great day. We could see more clearly the progress of the arduous yet satisfying workdays. I took a short morning walk on the barren, muddy road. I shivered, my skin penetrated by the nippy air. We worked nonstop all morning. The side panels are going up one by one, and the construction resembles a house more and more. This gives us great satisfaction. After lunch it was straight back to work. Zach and Camden continued to put up strapping for the ceilings, and Johan and I worked on our hammering skills with Mrs. Torres and Mr. Morris. The girls went with Nichelle and Mrs. Bauer to help organize the Thrift Store that PID is setting up.  After completing one side of the house, the squad quickly moved to the other side. We finished the day after about ¾ of the second side was done. The long day left us with almost no energy to run off, but we rallied and went to the playground for some touch football and piggy back rides. The day ended with another tremendous meal from Lady, shepherd’s pie, salad, and apple pie with ice cream. Tomorrow we hope to start putting up drywall and make even more progress on Lady’s house. 

Day 5: Glendora - by Zach Rogers

At the start of the day, the strapping and the siding were somewhere between 50 and 75% complete.  But admiring our work was not going to get the job done.  Siding was harder than the strapping because of the heat that had to be dealt with outside.  With the strapping, there was no need to worry about heat.  The morning went by slowly and spirits among the students dulled.  But once lunch came along, the happy vibe was back.  After lunch everyone was energized and ready to get back to work, but Mr. Morris threw us a curveball.  Instead of going directly back to the house to continue working, we took a visit to the Emmett Till Museum, which is located in Glendora.  I had very little knowledge of the murder mystery, only an overview of what happened.  As I was walking through the exhibits, it saddened me to learn more about how the Civil Rights movement was such a sweet and sour process.  What surprised me the most was the clay model of Emmett Till’s body.  How could someone go through such pain? I thought to myself.  His mother insisted that the casket was open at the funeral so that everyone was confronted by the horrible reality. After that the afternoon flew by. We had to pull off several sheets of siding because they were slightly slanted, but we persevered, and then the end of the workday came along.  I was happy I could rest for a few minutes then go and play with the kids in the town.  Tonight I played some intense basketball with some of the older kids.  I had always thought that if I could do it in NBA 2K then I could do it in real life.  I had to find out the hard way that this wasn’t true.  Still it was a lot of fun, and overall another good day.

Day 6: Glendora - by Camden Greenwood

I consider our group of 7 students to be a form of the Breakfast Club. This meaning, we all come together like a jigsaw puzzle to complete each other. Although our group has had multiple fights and quarrels, we are a kind of family.

We started off our day with breakfast, all of us eating the delicious food that Lady, the chef, made us, and John eating popcorn. After filling our stomachs, we tried to fit in some baseball and football before getting to the rigorous task of siding and strapping. John and I were on strapping duty, and we bickered with one and other, but by the end of the day we had finished strapping the entire ceiling of the house, which is a thing to be proud of.  While John and I worked inside of the house, everyone else was outside working on the siding and soffits, and they did a great job. By the end of day 6, the 9th grade family had completed insulation, windows, doors, strapping, and 80% of the siding. We are tired, almost always hungry, and hard working, but we are always having fun, and we are experiencing something truly incredible. 

Day 7: Glendora - by Ellie Greer

Today is Saturday, November 21st. It feels like we’ve been here in Glendora longer than six days. We slept in this morning, and it was much appreciated. We got to work at around 10:00 am. One group finished up siding, while I started putting dry wall on the ceiling with Patrick, Robert, Quan, Mrs. Bauer, Zach, and Mike. We managed to get most of the ceiling up in one of the rooms. Robert coached us and gave us instructions because he is the master of all things house building. With him checking our steps and catching our errors, work was relatively smooth. Before I knew it the time was 1:00 pm, and we stopped for a quick lunch. Lady’s son Quan joined us for much of today; after lunch we all watched an episode of “Criminal Minds” on Catrina’s phone upstairs. More than anything, how easily Quan fit into our group made it obvious that we are not so different. For much of the week we’ve had interaction with older people in Glendora, like Lady and Robert, as well as with younger kids like Jaquiem, Paisley, and Elmo. But Quan was the first kid our age that we’d had much interaction with. After the disturbing “Criminal Minds” episode was done, Mr. Morris had us all take a walk down to the Emmett Till Park by the bayou. It wasn’t the park that we normally went to, and there were not many kids aside from the ones who had come with us. It was fun, even if it was very cold outside. I honestly forgot we weren’t in Massachusetts, partially because of the cold, but mainly because I didn’t feel so much like a stranger. It’s still a little hard to understand the Glendora accent, but fortunately people seem to understand that and don’t get upset. In some ways I’m glad to be going home, but in others I kind of wish I could stay longer. 
    • At the National Civil Rights Museum

    • Inside the museum

    • The project site

    • Installing insulation

    • Fun after work

    • Evening at the B and B