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Construction club builds ramp for fellow student
by Debbie Lurie-Smith
Feb 08, 2009 | 13571 views | 1 1 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jeffery Ackerman (l-r), Charlie Davis, Cody Spires, Bin Grimes, Hunter Dixon, Brian White, Nick Dipaolo, and Jacob Dipaolo work on the ramp at the McGowan home this past Tuesday.
Jeffery Ackerman (l-r), Charlie Davis, Cody Spires, Bin Grimes, Hunter Dixon, Brian White, Nick Dipaolo, and Jacob Dipaolo work on the ramp at the McGowan home this past Tuesday.
A Jones County High School senior’s horseback riding accident has brought school officials, students, and a community together to help ease the recovery for the student and her family.

Jessica McGowan suffered an accident with her horse at her home Jan. 18. While riding with family and friends, her horse bucked and fell backward, landing on the lower portion of her body. The weight of the horse crushed Jessica’s pelvis and broke her lower back.

JCHS teachers Jamy Meeks and Nick Dipaolo and principal Chuck Gibson found a way to help the family. Dipaolo took several members of his construction class on a field trip to Jessica’s home Feb. 3 to build her a wheelchair ramp, and Ace Hardware in Gray gave them a 10 percent discount on the materials and waved the delivery fee.

Jessica’s church, Real Life, has agreed to pay for the materials.

Dipaolo said the group that built the ramp is part of Skills USA which is a construction club made up of his students, some of whom he has taught for four years. Seven members, Jeffrey Ackerman, Charlie Davis, Jacob Dipaolo, Bin Grimes, Cody Spires, Brian White, and Hunter Dixon worked on the ramp Tuesday beginning at 9 a.m. and finishing up at 2.

Dipaolo said he had at least a dozen more members of the club volunteer to help with the project. The club does construction projects for the school including building the sets for the proms and plays. He said they have worked on the football and baseball fields and recently built the gazebo at the county’s Liberty Park on Upper River Road.

Members of the club also constructed the castle play area in the lobby of Jones County Department of Family and Children Services.

Dipaolo credits the McGowan project to the dedication of Meeks and Gibson to the needs of students.

“I commend Ms. Meeks and Mr. Gibson for spearheading this. Not many school principals and teachers would get this involved,” he said.

Meeks said although Jessica’s back and pelvis have been repaired, she has a long road to recovery. A rod had to be extended from each of the teenager’s hips to connect to another bar that goes across her stomach to provide stability to her pelvis and back; this will be in place for eight to 10 weeks from the date of the accident.

Jessica must wear a back brace when she is allowed to sit up and stand. Although she is allowed to stand on her left foot and hop, she will not be allowed to put pressure on her right leg for up to 12 weeks.

While she is recuperating, her mother, Lisa, a Jones County Pre-K paraprofessional, will be out of work. The loss of this income will put a financial strain on the family in addition to the cost of physical therapy and other expenses not fully covered by insurance.

Meeks said the Jones County School System recently held a system-wide teacher dress- down day for the family. Teachers were allowed to wear jeans to school for a $5 donation.

In addition to this, some of Jessica’s teachers opened an account at Security Bank of Jones County, the Jessica McGowan Fund, to provide financial aid for the family during this time of need.

For additional information about the Jessica McGowan Fund, please contact Jamy Meeks at
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Judy Massey
March 02, 2009
Wishing you a speedy recovery!