Each year during Harvard’s spring break, PBHA’s Alternative Spring Break program sends student volunteers on public service trips across the United States. This spring, 10 students traveled to Decatur, Alabama to work with the local Habitat for Humanity and volunteer in the local elementary school. The students blogged throughout the trip; this is part seven of their series.
Friday was a very fun-packed day. We had another early start with breakfast at the City Cafe diner. Henry Bragg, the father of Tanya Hendricks treated us. We had country ham, chocolate gravy, and delicious buttery biscuits. We ate very well that morning!
Immediately after breakfast we headed to Austinville Elementary School to meet some of the students there. The kids were so cute! Us big kids split up and went into different classrooms to work in the classroom with the students. John, Kira, and I were in the English as a Second Language class. We worked with students who had come to America within the last year. The two brothers I was working with arrived from Guatemala two weeks ago. My biggest extra-curricular activity at school is an after-school program for students living in the Mission Hill region of Boston. I’m with those kids three, sometimes four days a week, and they are the best part of my day. Seeing these kids in school at Austinville was extra special for me!
After the school visit we headed down to Birmingham. We had lunch at a famous restaurant called Niki’s West. The food was served cafeteria style and almost everything was fried. Delicious, but fried. There we met with two women who were involved with the Harvard Club of Birmingham. Rowena Frazier is a member of the Club currently and Jean Sharks’ late husband was a member. Jean’s family is a supporter of our trip every year through their family foundation. It was great to meet with these women and tell them about our wonderful experience in Alabama thus far.
Our next stop was at the Civil Rights Institute. We walked through the exhibits and learned more about this troublesome time in American history. I really enjoyed walking through this for the second time; there was a lot to still learn and reflect upon.
Before we left for Decatur, we went to a small consignment shop called “What’s on 2nd?” and shopped around for bit. There were old postcards that caught my attention and so I had to get them (I study history, I love old things). It was fun looking around at what they had collected there. My favorite was the bathroom, which was doubled as an Elvis shrine.
After a pretty long drive, full of traffic, we made it back to Decatur. We toured Gay and Mark’s office for a bit and learned more about Gay’s father, who was Mayor of Decatur back in the 60s. From what we learned, he was an incredible leader. It makes sense why Gay is so special herself.
This was the same night as Decatur’s first “Third Friday” celebration. There were old cars and live music all up and down the main strip in downtown Decatur. This outdoor festival brought people from all over of all ages. The temperature wasn’t too cold either. We found one band performing at the end of the street that was a performance put on by the Decatur Sheriff. The band was so good and the music, all covers, had us (me) dancing! The set up was pretty cool: the backdrop of the band was a trailer that had the writing “seized from a local drug dealer,” and we sat on stacks of hay in front of the area to dance while the band performed. I really enjoyed this!
When we were all danced out (two highlights: Sweet Home Alabama and Sweet Caroline) we went back to Gay’s for a quick dinner. After that we all went back out to downtown Decatur for some more live music and friendship.