Newark, NJ Mission Trip

We stepped out of the van into the unseasonably warm night air. Thirty of us students had traveled from Christopher Newport University in Virginia seven hours to the grimy city of Newark, New Jersey for a spring break trip. Laughter ensued as sleeping bags and suitcases sprawled across the pavement. The luggage was grabbed by tired but excited hands. What was this week going to bring?
Across the road sits the Hawkins Street School. The three story building looks haunting, as though children from the 1930s should burst forth from its doors. At one point, this brick jail would have been a beautiful building with intricate architecture and large windows, where the sun could warm a classroom. You can almost hear the laughter and screams of first graders from a different world, echoing off now chipped and peeling walls. The edifice hasn’t been renovated in years and bars have been placed on the bottom floor windows to prevent break-ins. Hawkins Street School looks like a caged, crumbling fortress, forgotten by the very students who walk its halls.
Having traveled to Newark twice before this trip, I had seen the inner-city lifestyle and the poverty that plagued its streets. With the government housing projects on the same block, this institution experiences typical urban issues faced by public school systems. Even after being briefed on the severity teachers must show towards their students, my first day was an interesting experience considering my white, middle-class background. Needless to say, I was ill prepared for this humbling encounter with a world so different from my own.
More on Newark, NJ to come...