Building beds for needy families helps build character for Mississippi girls

Published 5:45 am Saturday, June 4, 2022

The softball field at Northeast Lauderdale is typically filled with athletes and cheering fans, but it recently served a different, and perhaps more important, purpose.

The Lauderdale County School District last week hosted its first EMPOWHER Project build day in collaboration with Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a local nonprofit that builds beds for needy families.

After receiving a career and technical education grant from The Mississippi Department of Education, the initiative was put forth to give girls the opportunity to learn more about engineering, construction, and mathematics.

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“Women are typically underrepresented in these fields,” said Marie Roberts, the school district’s director of technology. “We wanted to bring career awareness, give them the opportunity to learn more about those careers and the education they may need to do the job.”

Drills, hammers, and sanders may have been an unusual sight for 9th grade girls, but Lilly White and Kendall Cochran were up the challenge.

“I felt great to be here and to be working like this,” White said. “I feel terrible for those children that don’t have the one thing they need, and that’s a comfortable place to sleep.”

Although White’s father works in construction, learning to sand wood and drill screws were skills she enjoyed learning.

Like White, Cochran also enjoyed the challenge, noting that using a sander was new to her, but it was surprisingly easy.

In addition to the students, the project also got high marks from school leaders.

“I think it’s an awesome opportunity for our young ladies to be exposed to a career path that traditionally is not accustomed to having women,” said Superintendent John-Mark Cain.

“It reminds us why we get into the school business, to see these young ladies come together to better our community,” he emphasized. “It is just a wonderful experience to see them with smiles on their faces and the excitement to learn something new.”