Students Embark on Community Service and Experiential Learning Trip to the South

Six Upper School students and two faculty members traveled to the American South over the spring break to participate in community service and learn about life in that region of the United States.

For many years, students and faculty have taken the annual trip to Jonestown, Mississippi, to assist with community service initiatives in the town. This year, the trip was expanded to include visits to areas beyond Jonestown. Madison Blake ’22, Caleb Jakes ’22, Patrycja Palmowska ’20, Lina Philizaire ’20, Sophie Ruehlmann ’20 and Sophia Van Beek ’22, the students who participated in the trip, had the opportunity to consider issues such as how the music and cotton industries influenced the region, and how educational opportunities impact communities. Matt Browne, Upper School history teacher and a trip chaperone along with Upper School chemistry teacher Rene Hurley, said that “The goal of this trip was to perform community service in Jonestown, as has been a Masters tradition, but also to broaden the scope of the trip so that students would see a fuller picture of the South and particularly African-American life in the region.”

The group had a full schedule, beginning the trip with a service at the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church and a visit to the Cotton Exchange Museum. They then spent two days participating in a community service project in Jonestown, painting the interior of a local family’s house. Students spent the following days at various historic places across the region, including the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, University of Mississippi, the National Civil Rights Museum and Lorraine Motel.

“There were so many highlights,” said Jakes, who described many of the experiences to cultural centers and museums as “powerful.” And regarding the community service the group completed in Jonestown, Jakes shared, “It felt good that we painted the house. There was new energy in the room [we painted].”

By participating in the trip, Browne said, “I hope that students gained some insights into both the continuing challenges in the South with regard to race, and also the inspiring achievements of African Americans in the South despite a history of tremendous adversity."
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