SALEMBURG — Caitlin Ivey has a lot of good memories from Lakewood High School. One of many is addressing the Class of 2017 as the valedictorian.
On Monday morning, she returned to her alma mater and strolled through a student parking lot with no potholes. Driving around the deep cavities in the ground is a memory she doesn’t want future Leopards to have. And thanks to her contributions through the student-led “Pave It Forward” project, it will be a thing of the past. In the fall, Ivey will be attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She’s not going to benefit from her work, but she’s glad other young drivers will.
“We knew going into the project that it wasn’t about us,” Ivey said. “It was about the future of our school, our siblings in middle school and everybody that’s coming behind us. Even though we didn’t get to use it, somebody else will.”
The project was led by Ivey, Currie Carter and Sarah Wallace Strickland. In addition to potholes, some of the other problems were unstable gravel for walking, popped tires from sharp rocks and cracked windshields.
“Some people like to be crazy and back out really fast and so their tires would spin rocks and windshields have been broken,” Ivey said. “I think it’s just a pain and over time, the parking lot has got smaller and smaller. It’s been more difficult to pull out.”
Now, the parking has been expanded on both sides by a couple of feet, thanks to the efforts of her peers and other supporters such as Jeff Strickland, former LHS principal Kevin Hunter, SGA Advisor Donna Jordan, and Arnold Sandy, owner of Sandy’s Hauling & Backhoe Service Inc.
A couple of years ago, Ivey and her friends started the project through the Student Government Association (SGA). At the time, the estimated $70,000 project was presented to the Sampson County Board of Education and Commissioners. Before construction, students helped by raising money through donations from businesses and organizations.
Ivey said it’s been an exciting project and was thankful for the support from the school board. Principal John Goode is also glad it is coming to fruition. He also thanked school leaders such as Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy, Assistant Superintendent Col. Tommy Macon and the board.
“I think it shows a great amount of responsibility,” Goode said. “It’s an excellent life lesson. Students need to learn that sometimes if there’s something that you want, you have to work to get it. These young ladies have certainly did that.”
Carter was a senior at Lakewood when the project began and served as SGA president. She’s currently a sophomore at Meredith College and is glad that the efforts she started continue through Ivey and Strickland.
“It took a little over a year and a half,” she said. “But with a lot of effort and hope, it came to be.”
Carter was excited and thrilled to hear the good news when work began.
“I’m very thankful for all the people who helped and our parents were very supportive in it,” Carter said.
Like Ivey, she will not be able to use the parking lot, but she’s looking forward to her little brother, Hayden, and other students avoiding problems such as injuries or damaged cars.
Strickland will be able to drive through the parking lot for one year. The upcoming senior expressed how it feels good to do something, that’s going help for many years.
“Being able to leave something for the future generations to have feels really incredible,” Strickland said.
Strickland also gave credit to groups such as the SGA, who made contributions toward the effort. One of them was Lakewood’s graduating class in 2016. Sampson County officials paid a large chunk of the funding. Some said the project could end up costing between $70,000 and $100,000.
“I think we raised a good enough portion to show the Board of Education that we’re serious about this project,” Strickland said. “We really wanted it to happen for our peers.”
Mark Hammond, executive director of auxiliary services for Sampson County Schools, said the project is halfway completed.
“Hopefully by the end of next week, we’ll have everything completely wrapped up,” Hammond said.
Depending on the weather, paving is scheduled to begin Wednesday or Thursday. The work, which will also include striping car spaces, is expected to take several days. Legion Asphalt out of Beulaville was contracted for the job.
“The superintendent and our school board has worked very hard to make this thing happen,” Hammond said. “I know the students at Lakewood are going to be very happy when they come back to school. They should have a nice parking lot. The students themselves have worked very hard doing fundraisers and things of that nature. Finally, it’s come together and we’re very excited for them.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.