Hats Off to Field School Program

Paxton Carlson, one of the 12 high-school students working at the Dutch Reformed Church this summer, addressed the group gathered for their graduation ceremony.

Wow, how do I begin? This whole experience has been amazing for all of us. I don't think anybody came into this knowing the enormous amount of knowledge that was about to be taught to us. From the very beginning we all realized this wasn't any normal “summer job,” as it was put to us. From the heavy objects we hauled into a giant industrial garbage bin, to the beginning of the rebuild of the stage, it was all so surreal.

But none of this would have been accomplished without the helping hand of Mr. Jeff Finch. Who would've thought one man could carry so much information in his brain? Or so many tools in his van? But one thing's for sure: none of this would have been possible without him, or Dylan [Reitenbach]. We all worked together. That was really the key—teamwork. We got so much done so quickly, and the right way.

From the start everyone really enjoyed the hands-on aspect of our jobs. So, in saying that, I believe everybody could agree the bridging and repairing of the stage was our favorite part, and the most fun to learn. We all got a feel for using the hammer very quickly. Everyone pitched in. And we all got really dirty. By the end of the day we all resembled a bunch of coal miners. We soon learned dirt would be our close companion through these six weeks.

One task that didn't exactly make our clothes a very dark shade of black soon crept up on us. We sure were grateful for a bit of a change. Aside from the obvious hole in the stage, the apparent missing windows were another issue that needed to be dealt with. So, first began the teaching that was done by Mr. Finch, and after the example was set we all began our work. The glass was delicate, so everyone had to be extra careful. But after we got used to the putty and glass, the work was steadily accomplished. We also saw how glass was cut. It was neat to see Mr. Finch glide through the glass with such a tiny blade; one wrong move and it would all fall apart. But Mr. Finch really knows his stuff, so it was all done with little error.

Along with cutting glass, we learned how to analyze paint, as well as the old nails that can be found all around this church. The tiny samples we took held so much information in the many layers. It was fascinating.

Nearing the end of the road, as our jobs were slowing, we really could take a step back and see all that we had accomplished. We could barely imagine the stage with the gaping hole that was now replaced by new lumber that every one of us helped put in. The windows that we worked so hard on. The many pounds of wood, cement, and rock carried out and away. But to know that we played a part in the restoration of not only a special building, but a historically rich city, forgotten in this ever changing world. Maybe sometime soon, or in a generation or two, Newburgh will shine like its potential shows it can. But all of us, we worked hard, and we know that our efforts here are bringing our city up, little by little.