Gearing Up for Field School in Newburgh, NY

Tuesday, July 14, was the first day of the summer field school at the Dutch Reformed Church, where students from the Newburgh Free Academy will embark on one of the most challenging summers of their young lives. Work starts at 8:00 a.m. and the usual baseball caps will be traded in for hardhats. The students' task involves restoring elements of the church, an 1830s Greek Revival structure. The primary focus will be repairing the stage, which was damaged by a fire in August 2008. With these repairs, supporters hope to bring special events back to the site, including a graduation ceremony for the student participants at the end of the six weeks.

Last Monday, I had the opportunity to visit the site. Traveling on Metro-North towards Beacon (just across the river from Newburgh), I was reminded of my undergraduate years at Vassar College. The best part about taking the train from Grand Central back to school was that Poughkeepsie is the final stop. No matter how late I returned from the city, missing my stop was impossible. However, this time around I was a bit nervous about napping on the train. Armed with the banner for the field school at the church, I imagined the most embarrassing scenarios; fortunately none of these came to light and I arrived at my destination without a snag.

Once at the Habitat for Humanity headquarters, banner safely delivered and everything correctly spelled (thanks to WMF Art Director Ken Feisel!), I saw large photographs of the houses they have completed and future plans for the surrounding area. One of the homes on display is one I had the pleasure of working on with my alma mater's Habitat for Humanity chapter in 2007. The house had come a long way since the weekend we spent our time tearing out rotting wood, scraping paint, and making repairs to the roof. It was now a beautiful single-family home occupied by a just-as-beautiful and deserving family. If this home serves as an example of what can be accomplished by dedicated students and leaders, it is going to be an amazing six weeks at the Dutch Reformed Church!