By JAMES EVANS
Rutherford County Schools
Only a few short years ago, Hunter Bullock would have never imagined he would be standing in front of Stewarts Creek High School, dedicating the results of a construction project that he had overseen from beginning to end.
As a sophomore, Hunter approached the administration about building a brick-paver courtyard at the entrance of the school. Known as the "Legacy Project," the courtyard would be comprised of pavers sold to students and supporters who wanted to add their names forever to the budding history of the new school, which opened in August 2012.
Hunter, a 2016 Stewarts Creek graduate, joined his family and others last week in a ceremony in front of the school to dedicate the completed project. He thanked his parents for the time they put into helping him ensure the project came to fruition.
"We spent hours out here pouring concrete and laying pavers when we should have been planning my graduation party," Hunter said. "My mom was pretty stressed."
But the irony of Hunter's leadership with the project is that it wasn't that long ago Hunter despised the construction industry because it had often kept his dad, Scott, away from home and the family.
"I actually hated construction until I was a freshman and wanted to learn what my dad did," Hunter said.
Hunter's perspective changed when he began working part time at a construction company to learn more about the industry that had provided an income for his family for multiple generations. In addition to his dad's employment in the industry, Hunter's grandfather, George Bullock, had owned a construction company in Warner Robins, Georgia.
The Legacy Project has been a tremendous success. Through the school's Interact Club, and its partnership with the Smyrna Rotary Club, Hunter and other students have sold approximately 300 pavers and raised more than $45,000, Hunter said during the dedication ceremony in front of the Rotarians, students, administrators and other guests.
The experience was life changing, Hunter said, and helped put him on the path for his career. Hunter is pursuing a degree in building construction science at Mississippi State University.
"I had to learn how to talk to contractors on the phone and send a professional e-mail," Hunter explained. "I had to do a lot of things that most kids my age don't have to do."
School Board member Wayne Blair, a long-time Smyrna Rotarian, said the group has been pleased to work with Hunter and the Interact Club to build a partnership that emphasizes community service and student achievement.
"It just fills us all with a sense of pride," Blair said.
Principal Clark Harrell presented Hunter with a framed certificate that also included the original drawing that Hunter had used to pitch his plan to the school's administrators.
"You see here before you a grand entry," Harrell said, "and it will be here longer than me."
In addition to the pavers and an immaculate, angled wall that shapes the boundary of the new courtyard, the Legacy Project features a plaque that includes the names of Hunter and his father. Hunter did not want his own name on the plaque, but the school administration insisted.
The plaque also includes the name of Hunter's grandfather, George.
Hunter doesn't remember him -- George passed away when Hunter was only 18-months-old -- but he wanted his name included on the plaque as a physical acknowledgement that Hunter had embraced the family legacy he previously rejected.
"He lives today," Hunter said tearfully of his grandfather. "He lives inside our hearts through our passion for construction."
Those interested in purchasing a paver for the Legacy Project should contact the school directly at 615-904-6771. Stewarts Creek High School is located at 301 Red Hawk Parkway in Smyrna.