Alabama students work on projects in Marion
Published 10:37 pm Wednesday, May 25, 2016
University of Alabama freshmen students Alyssa Barefield, 19, and Gracie Thull, 18, worked diligently Wednesday to paint parking spot lines outside the Perry County Courthouse.
Barefield and Thull are two of 31 students who have spent the last three weeks in Marion for the University of Alabama’s University Fellow Experience.
“I’m really grateful that Marion has welcomed us the way that they have,” Thull said as she rolled crisp white paint onto the pavement. “Every year they open their homes and their hearts, take really good care of us and let us learn.”
In its eighth year, the program is part of the university’s honor college and is designed to help develop service and leadership skills in its students through a variety of community-centered projects.
It’s a four-year program that focuses on different elements. For the freshman year the element is “develop.” Students explore issues such as civic engagement, personal development, project development, implementation and others. The students then spend three weeks in Marion as part of the Black Belt Experience in May where they execute various projects.
“We do our best to make sure that we are doing something positive for the community,” said 20-year-old sophomore and student leader Rick Lewis.
During the first two weeks, the students worked on projects such as Smart Art Students, Launching Leadership, Operation Play and others. During the last week, all of the students work on more tangible projects for beautification of the city such as tending the gardens at the courthouse, repainting parking spot lines, maintaining the cemetery and more.
While a majority of the first two weeks’ projects are education based, others focus on community interaction.
Rising sophomores Cole Jones, 19, and Abigail Kappelman, 18, have been working on Front Porch Sessions, a visual and audio storytelling experience.
“Instead of getting the history of Marion, we really wanted to talk about the people of Marion and their stories,” Kappelman said.
The two spent the spring developing the idea of the project in Tuscaloosa. During their time at Marion, they interviewed and photographed the locals. This week they have begun the editing process of their project and expect to continue editing the materials into the summer.
Jones said they hope to have the project finished sometime in the fall. At that point, the interviews will be available online as podcasts.
As of now, the two have created a website, Instagram, Facebook and other social media accounts to share their progress. They can be found on Instagram or Facebook by searching, “Front Porch Session,” and by visiting their website at www.frontporchsessions.weebly.com.
“The most important thing for me is understanding this community better and understanding what the future looks like for them and being able to spread the word about that,” Jones said.