Every year, for over 25 years, students at the Pequawket Valley Alternative School at Fryeburg Academy take a community service trip to an area in need of volunteers for ecological/environmental causes or to help communities rebuild after natural disasters.
The PVAS is a program for students throughout the district that offers a smaller classroom setting and hands-on learning.
In May, the class took a trip to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate in Virginia where one of the students’ many tasks was to plant historically accurate varieties of plants, flowers and trees.
Nine students (together with two faculty members) participated in the service trip to Mount Vernon: Hope Stevens, Chris Bergquist, Mason Singer,
Cameron Elmore, Kenny Eastman, Alicia Gerrish, Meadow Keisman, Sahila Jaber, and Allassandra Garofano.
Some of us met for the first time this semester. Our personalities are not all the same, and we do not always think alike. However, we faced our task with everything we had inside us and completed projects in great time.
Our group worked in several locations throughout the estate, including the scholar’s library, the ladies quarters and the historic entrance. Students also removed deer fencing from nearby acreage on the estate and planted the annual garden in front of the sign welcoming visitors to Mount Vernon.
It was a week-long school trip, 12 hours away. Everyone had to work together as a team, not only in the gardens and fields, but as peers trying to accomplish tasks together.
George Washington’s estate is extremely well kept and maintained.
Our host, Horticulture Director Dean Norton, has been employed at the estate since he was 16 years old and has continued to show his loyalty to Mount Vernon for 46 years. The time that we spent getting to know Dean and his staff was truly inspirational.
A great deal of time, effort and resources go into making the historical buildings of Washington’s estate so beautiful and memorable; there is nothing quite like it.
My peers and I had the opportunity to take a private tour given by Dean and to see behind the scenes of Mount Vernon. We also had the privilege of working with a few of the other employees at the estate whose jobs are to educate visitors about the unique artifacts, extensive gardens, animals and overall estate that once was occupied by the family of George Washington.
In the mansion, our tour guide showed off a key on the wall inside the entrance. This key was given to George Washington to commemorate the closing of the Bastille Prison in France. The key symbolizes freedom as it was the key to the main entrance of the prison.
While on our community service venture, we traveled to Washington, D.C., to see our nation’s capitol and visit the monuments and museums.
When we finished all of the work that was asked of us, Dean spoiled us with a cookout and boat ride complete with fishing on the Potomac River, affording spectacular views of the historic homestead. One of our classmates caught a catfish about 16 inches long.
The Pequawket Valley Alternative School is a unique program that offers life skills as well as a high school education; helping us manage between work, school and life. Experiential learning and community service are also main components of the program, and we are very involved in lending a helping hand in our own community as well as surrounding communities and beyond.
Allassandra Garafano is a student at Pequawket Valley Alternative School
- Category: Education