Building Bridges in Macon County: April 16

Macon County high school juniors and seniors, many of whom are fulfilling requirements for Bridge Builders Alabama, meet every other Tuesday night at Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church on Highway 81 between Notasulga and Tuskegee.  Auburn University undergraduates work alongside them, as they develop skills related to life, work, and college.  The program is funded in part by the Appalachian Regional Commission.

IMG_9120Tonight we were joined by Porsche Holland of Bridge Builders Alabama, who is working with seniors from several schools in the region to document their progress on senior projects. Our seniors have chosen the bench/tree/library dedication on May 4 as part of the annual Carver Day in Tuskegee as their project.  They have already begun collecting books for the libraries, and tonight we broke into three groups to brainstorm and plan all aspects of that day.

One group worked on invitations and a list of places to advertise the event.  We have some talented artists in the group, and their work will help the public know that this is a project where young leaders are exercising their gifts and talents.  The program group sketched out a fine plan for the dedication, including the brilliant idea of having everyone in attendance—especially children—pour a cup of water on the newly-placed tree as a symbol of their contribution to its growth.  A third group worked on brainstorming children’s activities that could be implemented throughout the day as part of the festival.  It sounds like face painting and games are in order, which will make for a great day for all involved.

IMG_9126Near the end of our session, we had a brief but important discussion related to the site of the second bench, which will be the Ridgewood Community in Tuskegee.  One student warned that public housing might not be the best destination, and that opened up a subject our society either seems to tippy-toe around, ignore, or discuss in derision. It’s true that money-poor people live in public housing, and it’s also true that crime occurs in poor neighborhoods, and at higher rates.  But limited financial means doesn’t mean folk aren’t interested in transforming their surroundings in ways that improve the quality of life and increase those positive things that can’t be measured or counted in dollars and cents.   Perhaps our students (high school and college) will be the kinds of citizens who see public housing communities as part of the entire community, a place to visit, rather than a place to avoid.

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