Seniors at Newport High School are connecting with their community while fulfilling their service project graduation requirement by renovating the city’s historic Southgate School to prep for a new Newport History Museum.
“All these students live in Newport, and so they’re all doing work that will benefit the city they live in,” media arts teacher Bonnie Stacey told the Northern Kentucky Tribune. “This is a unique experience that offers a different kind of learning.”
Students learned about the historical significance of the school, which was originally built for black students only. Some students hauled furniture from the basement of the building, or cleaned off steps, while others worked on painting a fence in front of the building and finishing floors.
Some students also worked on landscaping the site, and hauling away junk.
“I’m hoping to help the community, and help restore everything for the museum,” senior Jordan Peoples said.
After the hard work, students are tasked with reflecting on what they learned and sharing it with district officials.
James Davison Hunter, author of The Death of Character, underscores the value of such activities. “It is through experience that students participate in moral community and practice moral action…. Experience is always a precursor to the possession of character and practical wisdom (p. 113). It is almost a cliché that experience is the best teacher.
“Every single one of the students will go and speak to the Board of Education about their experiences here today,” Stacey told the news site.
Senior Mercedes McCullah said she was unaware of the school’s history until she started work at the building.
“I knew what the building was because I would always see it when I would go to 4th Street,” the teen said as she painted the fence. “But working and being involved in the community, it just makes you feel good.”
Classmate Kiara Wheeler is already looking forward to when all of the hard work pays off.
“One day we’ll take our children here and we’ll tell them we helped make that,” she said.
One of the challenges of being a teacher is trying to instill in young people a sense of obligation to others than just the self.
The UK’s The Jubilee Centre has a useful paper about teaching students to serve others and not just themselves. The paper, can be found at The Jubilee Centre for Character and Values Portal.