Auburn students tour Chambers County

Published 10:00 am Saturday, March 16, 2024

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Students from Auburn University took a tour through LaFayette on Friday as a part of the Auburn Across Alabama (AAA) student experience. 

The school puts on a similar program for faculty and staff, who came to LaFayette in the fall. This time students from any program or grade level could join the day trip. Their first stop was Inspire Academy for a tour of the Career Tech campus.

School principal Troy Kelly and IA Career Coach Ben Brugge showed the college students many of the career tech tracks students could take at Inspire. 

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The first stop was the apiary and agriculture barn. Students and staff got a small jar filled with the honey made on-site. Afterward they were invited into the IA barn and got to see the goats and chickens the students keep. The barn and fences were built by previous students when learning agricultural construction. 

In contrast, Brugge showed the group the modern manufacturing and GreenPower racing classrooms and shops. The school was setting up for a racing event, so barricades were all around the campus. The GreenPower teacher, Seth Stehouwer, described the class and how students must build, maintain and market their teams throughout the year. They walked through the student-made cars to get to the precision manufacturing area, complete with a $300,000 mill. All the presentations were made by teachers and staff at the school to show the Auburn students the value of the county having a Career Tech center. 

The last section of the IA tour was a look at the school-run food pantry, which services the LaFayette community. The outreach coordinator and organizer of the trip, Jocelyn Vickers, voiced her interest in connecting the university to help with the food pantry. 

The students boarded their bus for the next stop at Eastside Elementary School. There they got to go into some of the elementary and middle school classrooms. Apparently many of the younger kids made it known to the Auburn students that they were Alabama fans. A few of the members of the tour group said the school was their favorite stop.

“I’m from Selma, especially going to the elementary school I felt I was back in elementary school myself…really an at-home experience,” said Kevien Shelton.

A creative writing student, Day Oliver, said she wanted to volunteer at Eastside. Oliver recalled how the school reminded her of her own experiences. She hopes to work in education and outreach. 

The next stop was the Lanett Airport, where students got to learn about the regional airport and its development. Chris Busby, the executive director of the Chambers County Development Authority. spoke about the county’s business and industrial growth over the past decade and the authority’s current role in the community. Busby toured them around the new airport before they left. 

DeAnna Hand, director of LaFayette Main Street, also spoke to the students about her organization. Main Street, and by extension, LaFayette, has seen huge growth since it started in 2022. Hand also talked with each of the students on how their degrees could serve the Chambers County community. The group of around 10 students ranged from biology, creative writing, health development and family science majors, and more. 

The group then stopped at Kraver Korner for a bite to eat before ending the tour at the Community Health and Wellness Center. The students not only learn about the center, which is itself a partnership with Auburn Univerity, but also test out the OnMed Telehealth Station. 

At this final stop, the group reflected on their experience of LaFayette and Chambers County. 

Ranveer Singh, an international student from India, enjoyed hearing about the Development Authority and seeing the airport. Singh is a regular on these trips, wanting to see areas outside of Auburn. 

“Being an international student, I have less exposure to Alabama and the United States, so I want to explore more of Alabama,” Singh said. 

He added that seeing the elementary school allowed him to understand the difference in education from India to the U.S.

“Seeing the Career Tech school was interesting…the community educational is highly impressive, coming from a four-year institution, which doesn’t pivot always very quickly, it’s neat to see how they are pivoting and making things available as they see a need,” said Patrick George, an Auburn program coordinator.

E.L. Parsons, a health development and family science major, enjoyed seeing how the community helps each other, at all of the stops.

“I am trying to learn from the actions that they are taking, rather than just reading papers,” said Parsons. “It is cool to see so many people from the area who are doing things to make it better for their community … I feel inspired.”