News From Masters
Sister Kay Burton praised the School’s contributions to community service efforts in Jonestown, Mississippi during a presentation on campus this week. It was her first visit in 21 years of partnership with Masters.
Sister Kay spoke to students during the Upper School morning meeting on Tuesday, October 10, and that evening, was the guest of honor at a dinner held in the Sharon Room at the Fonseca Center. At the dinner, current students and alumnae/i who participated in the Jonestown service trips shared their reflections on the experience. Among the guests was Amy Atlee, former Community Service Director, who helped plan the trips for many years.
Every year, a group of Masters students and faculty members travels to Jonestown during spring break to work with Sister Kay on home repair and other projects. In her talk on Tuesday, Sister Kay said that 23 groups from Masters have helped out in Jonestown since the 1990s — the most from any school.
The Masters volunteers have worked on many homes that needed plumbing and electrical work and other improvements, and were instrumental in helping to build a track and a softball field, said Sister Kay.
The School has also sponsored numerous Jeans Day fundraisers for Jonestown over the years. The money raised from these fundraisers has enabled participants in a Jonestown youth program to take field trips during the summer, according to Sister Kay. During one trip, she said, Jonestown youngsters visited a school attended by Thurgood Marshall, who was instrumental in ending legal segregation and became the first African American justice of the Supreme Court.
Masters’ Jonestown service learning program was launched in 1995 at the suggestion of then-Head of School Pamela Clarke, who had done volunteer work in the community with an outside organization.
When visiting Jonestown, Masters students live communally with Sister Kay and other nuns, sharing the cooking and cleaning responsibilities.
Sister Kay has lived and worked in Jonestown since the early 1980s, focusing on improving educational and social programs, as well as the general quality of life. She identifies projects for the Masters volunteers to tackle each year, such as cleaning, painting, landscaping, installing shelves and building wheelchair ramps at the homes of Jonestown residents.
Jonestown has been designated as one of the poorest towns, in one of the poorest states. Many residents were formerly employed in seasonal agricultural jobs, but have been replaced by machines and fallen into the cycle of poverty.