More than child’s play

MCCers to help build Jeannie’s Place at Planet Playground

Not all learning takes place inside the classroom.

This rings especially true when Meridian Community College students, faculty and staff help others in the community again this time by taking part in building Jeannie’s Place at Planet Playground from Monday, Feb. 18, through Sunday, Feb. 24.

Located at Northeast Park in Meridian, Jeannie's Place at Planet Playground will be the only handicapped accessible public playground in the area and the largest all-inclusive playground in the state. Valerie Creel, MCC career and technical education advisor and Junior Auxiliary of Meridian provisional member, has been helping with lining up the volunteers from campus.

“This is great for the community … it’s a playground for everybody,” Creel said. It’s also a way for the community to see MCCers giving back to their community. “We’re asking for groups - Phi Theta Kappa, Honors College, athletes, Ivy Recruiters and others - to help and we’re getting individuals to help as well,” Creel said.

Students in the College’s Industrial Division including Construction Trades and Electrical Technology, have been readying for the playground build by making 22 pairs of sawhorses, three work tables, two saw tables, 10 hand tamps and more.

“This experience teaches them to go above and beyond what’s expected to do during regular job hours to help the community,” said Jim Miles, MCC Electrical Technology Program coordinator and instructor.

Volunteers are expected to number in the thousands. “I’ve never been involved in a community service project this big – not on this scale,” Miles said. MCC students, faculty and staff are up to the challenge, though.

“The builders of the playground said they are leaning heavily on our programs’ students because they have the skills,” Miles said, adding that the students, in turn, will have to help other volunteers. “One of the main things they’ll learn is how to work with different people,” Miles said.

The build is also teaching how to schedule. “Because we have classwork to do, we have a job site production we have to get done, but at the same time, we have to give back to the community,” Shirley said.

Jenny Bryan, MCC academic coordinator of clinical education and instructor for the Physical Therapist Assistant Program, said participating in the build is a great team building experience for students. “It gives them a chance to bond,” she said. There are also the opportunities to learn from different situations they may encounter while volunteering, which Bryan said is important. “Because you never know what your patients are bringing to the table from day to day,” she said.

“So there’s a lot more that goes into it than just building a playground,” Shirley said.

Jacob Watts, 18, a Construction Trades Program student from Meridian, said he grew up playing on Planet Playground and he’s looking forward to pitching in. “It’s a good way to help out the community.” His classmate, Jacob Touchstone, 19, from Collinsville echoes the statement. “The community gives back to the people. So we should play a role in doing our part – whether it is small or big.

“It’s as simple as that,” Touchstone added.

Cara Horstman, a first-year student in the PTA program, sees connections in volunteering. “I’m very interested in the pediatric side of physical therapy. I taught pre-school for years and I know how important actual play time on playgrounds is to fine motor development and social and cognitive development. I’m excited to be a part to help out,” she said. Classmate Austin Smith from Philadelphia said he’s always been eager to volunteer. “I’m blessed to have the opportunity where I can do something. I’d be wasting my ability if I didn’t go and help.”

The playground also holds a special meaning for Bryan. “I was part of the first build when I was a Physical Therapist Assistant student here at MCC in 1999. I actually helped put in the slide one day during that build,” she said. Bryan also noted that William Lamar, one of the youths who helped raise funds for the project, is her nephew.

“Everybody has to work together to get it accomplished,” Miles added.

To help with the build, contact Creel at 601-481-1351 or email her at vcreel@meridiancc.edu

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