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By SHEA STASKOWSKI
A group of high school seniors from Notre Dame Preparatory School in Maryland is the last school to participate in the Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge.
A group of 16 from the all-girls school submitted applications to spend their spring break helping to build the two Apostleâ€™s homes being erected simultaneously. More than 30 girls applied for the service trip, but only the 16 most dedicated were selected.
â€śWe always have more applicants than we can take,â€ť trip leader Patty Maillett said. â€śThe school is very committed to service. Itâ€™s that commitment to service that keeps us coming back.â€ť
The prep school has participated in 19 collegiate challenges in Starkville, and the experience is open to all seniors.
â€śAlso, what keeps us coming back is our commitment to Habitat and the people. Yâ€™all are the nicest, kindest, most laid-back people. Itâ€™s wonderful,â€ť Maillett added. â€śThe girls go back home and tell their little sisters and younger friends, and then [those girls] want to come the next year.â€ť
â€śThe girls love it,â€ť added Steve Pomplon, director of service at Notre Dame Prep. â€śThe word of Southern hospitality spreads throughout the school each year.â€ť
Senior Jen Guthrie, who is the president of her schoolâ€™s Habitat Club, jumped at the chance to venture down South for the first time.
â€śBeing a part of [Habitat] back in Baltimore, you feel like youâ€™re having an impact on a community, and I feel like a lot of us came down to experience that same feeling here,â€ť Guthrie said. â€śWe got to meet the family yesterday and it makes you see who youâ€™re doing this for, and it makes it worthwhile to know who youâ€™re helping.â€ť
Typically, the Collegiate Challenge volunteers arrive in Starkville on a Sunday and work through the following Friday for a full week of building; however, as Easter falls on the weekend ending their spring break, the Notre Dame Prep group opted to come last Thursday and work through the weekend.
â€śThis is the youngest group we have [to participate in the Collegiate Challenge],â€ť Habitat Director Freddie Rasberry said. â€śThese kids are so special. I worked with them yesterday afternoon and they were not satisfied not to work, so thatâ€™s just indicative to me of the dedication they have to this ministry.â€ť
Rearranging their trip to be able to get the most of their work experience seemed like a good idea at the time, but their work day last Friday was interrupted by a rash of storms that left the Northerners a bit shaken.
â€śWe donâ€™t have tornados in Maryland,â€ť Guthrie laughed after the fact. â€śBut everyone is so nice here that it was okay. A woman came up to us to let us know the storms were coming, and she was just so nice and genuine. If a tornado came through Baltimore, I donâ€™t think people would have reacted the same way.â€ť
Aside from the storms, some of the girls had another factor to be nervous about as most have no construction experience.
â€śI was a little nervous because I have never done anything like this before,â€ť Natalie Scheeler said. â€śThey put me on siding and I was scared I wasnâ€™t going to do it right, but after trying it, I realized I could do it, and siding has actually been my favorite part.â€ť
Site manager John Breazeale is on hand to teach the girls everything they need to know, and the girls have noticed the special way he makes them feel like a professional in no time.
â€śEveryone is really helpful and nice, and they make you feel like you can do it,â€ť Scheeler said.
â€śJohn teaches us so well and so patiently,â€ť Maillett added. â€śWe make mistakes and we mess up materials, but heâ€™s just so patient and helpful.â€ť
Even with storms and a shortened visit, the Notre Dame Prep group kept the building schedule on time for both homes to be completed in June.
â€śOur goal is to finish and get the families in these homes by mid-June and then weâ€™ll start our third Maroon Edition house in August,â€ť Rasberry explained. â€śNow that [the Collegiate Challenge] is over, we move to our Friday and Saturday work days. Now our local students and volunteers will step up and help finish the work.â€ť
To find out about volunteer opportunities, contact Starkville Habitat for Humanity at 324-7008, or visit them at http://www.starkvillehabitat.com.