THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
SCOTLAND NECK —
A trip through the Smoky Mountains sparked a project at SouthWest Edgecombe (SWE) High School that was recently named a recipient of a Bright Ideas Grant from the Edgecombe-Martin County Electric Membership Cooperative.
The grant was awarded to SouthWest’s AirForce Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (AFJROTC). The AFJROTC program will complete a totally unexpected project: a Hillbilly House. The team of cadets constructed the house mounted on a vehicle, which will debut as a self-propelled float in the Pinetops Christmas Parade on Dec. 7.
Construction on the house began last spring and, as the float began to take form, it became apparent that funds would be needed to complete the project. As a result, the team drafted and submitted a Bright Ideas Grant application to the Edgecombe-Martin EMC.
Col. Mike Whitehurst, the senior aerospace science instruction at SWE, told how the project came to be:
“While driving through the mountains of Tennessee, I was inspired by an old house sitting back in the woods that I could only define as a Hillbilly House,” he said. “I thought about the skill sets it would take to construct such a house … Skill sets that we strive to instill in our cadets, like leadership, teamwork, problem solving and planning. The more I thought about the value of such a project, I was inspired to ask our youngsters to tackle the challenge. The team rose to the undertaking.”
“The EMC team has been a good friend to our program over the past many years,” Whitehurst said. “We were delighted to find that EMC approved our application. These funds will go a long way in offsetting the expenses we’ve incurred.”
Whitehurst said Chief Emmanuel Williams, another instructor in the AFJROTC program, has been instrumental in guiding students in the construction of the house. Williams said the process has been about letting students “discover their potential.”
Students were as excited as their instructors about the project.
“I had the most fun figuring out how we were going to build this hillbilly float,” Cadet James Eason said. “As a team we managed to get it going. The house and outhouse look phenomenal and looks like a real hillbilly house.”
Although Cadet Devin Perry values the lessons from team work learned from the project, he is most excited about the “joy this will bring to the children that will attend the parade.”
“At first I didn’t think we could pull this whole operation off, but, with a little team work, integrity and dedication, it actually came together like it was supposed to,” Cadet Brysen Alston added.
“Sometimes we try out projects and we miss the mark. That’s a lesson in and of itself,” Whitehurst said. “This time we laid out a plan, pulled together as a team, and hit the target dead center.”
On Dec. 7, the Hillbilly House will roll down the streets of Pinetops in the annual Pinetops Christmas Parade. On the front porch, grandpa and grandma will rock in the shade of the front porch. Grandma will be sewing a quilt and grandpa will be waving to the crowds of spectators. On the back porch, Daisey Mae will struggle with her wash board and loads of laundry. The house will be followed by the obligatory ‘outhouse.’ The popular song “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” will serenade spectators as an idea from a trip to the mountains comes to fuition