(NEW ORLEANS)– This past Wednesday (April 5), the sophomore class cruised across Lake Pontchartrain; dispersing by either bus or car to various worksites in order to help some sort of organization or community project.
These sights included, but were not limited to, the New Directions and Greenwalt Adult Day Healthcare Centers, Youth Rebuilding New Orleans, The Food Pantry of New Orleans, and City Park, to help renew the durability and appearance of their nature trail.
At random, 40 sophomores, along with myself, were assigned to the bus with Coach Joe Dickens heading for City Park. As I walked onto the bus, I had an unusual mindset of actually anticipating the hard labor which was to come.
I held a very complex and intriguing conversation with my pal, Jake, on the way over. We spoke quite frequently in the 8th grade, but due to lack of shared class periods, we had pretty much lapsed to the occasional “stop-and-chat” between classes.
When we got off the bus at City Park, we were introduced to Tyler, the service coordinator who set up and distributed tools, jobs and job criteria to us. My first job as a wheelbarrow handler was to haul the mulch, dump it and wait for it to be raked evenly by those assigned to do so.
The process started slow and picked up fast after a cooperative work pace was achieved. Our group worked so efficiently that the work was done in a little over two hours. The labor was not overbearing, and the weather was clear with an overcast. The trail’s built-in shade also contributed to the effort of stupendous weather.
Usually, when I am in the classroom, I act reserved, as I tend to lack self-confidence and feel as if I have little social skills. It was something about being outside and working beyond the textbook that made me feel able to open up and laugh more. Talking to kids who I’ve rarely spoken to, or who I had previously thought were better than me, came with ease.
With this, I found it easier to talk to my English instructor, Coach Dickens, too. At the beginning of the year, feelings of intimidation plagued me to the point where I barely even asked a question. Though I have begun to be more involved in class discussion over time; seeing him work at the same level as the student, loading mulch onto wheelbarrows with a pitchfork and blaring words of encouragement, rather than as an administration or faculty member, made me feel more obligated to ask questions. I conversed with him about topics beyond grammar, vocabulary or literature.
We were told that even though we were not helping anyone directly at City Park, we were helping those who wish to experience the majesty of the park either by themselves or with their families on weekends. We were also told that we were bettering ourselves through acquiring the value of hard work.
Exploring the nature trail we helped realign was also quite enjoyable. I ran up the hill towards the highest elevation in New Orleans that was not artificial or architecture. This, of course, was only a hill with some benches lying atop it. Nevertheless, it was both good exercise and a pleasant view.
Upon returning from New Orleans and having another provocative exchange with Jake, I was more than ready to wolf down the Domino’s pizza and other refreshments provided by the St. Paul’s Mothers Club. It was a very gracious gesture for them to take time out of their day and feed us starving young men. Truly, they were the one’s who did a service project.
Following my well-desired meal, and working the room to meet with old friends, we retired to the chapel for reflection and dismissal. Those who had enough courage spoke of their experience of the service they did in a positive, respectful manner. I held high regard to those who spoke. Even I was about to speak about my very convivial day, as I stood for a brief spell. But, my lack of self-confidence pulled me aside and demanded that I refrain from doing so. This was better off, as it makes this reflection much more surprising to the student viewer.
As a message to those who are to attend Sophomore Service Day in years to come, heed Coach Moore’s statement regarding entering with a will to work and positive action. Without those two ingredients, I would have never been able to actualize the betterment of both self and others.