WHITMIRE — Having a physical disability does not deter Hermani Mesilien, who is hard of hearing and a student at the S.C. School for the Deaf and Blind in Spartanburg, from helping build homes for Habitat for Humanity.
The 15-year-old sophomore calls Whitmire his home although he moved here from New York with his mother for its “safer, family-focused environment.” He does admit it can be a bit boring but he is still a teenager used to the big city.
Mesilien and other students in John Breitenbach’s carpentry class at the school are tackling their first year working on Habitat homes. Breitenbach said Mesilien is “a very good student and learns very quickly. He’s the youngest (in the class) and participates in every way.”
The novice carpenter’s teacher added that Mesilien is “very inquisitive and curious about a lot of things.”
Breitenbach moved from Gaffney and last year was his first year teaching carpentry. Just like school districts have their career centers, the School for the Deaf and Blind want to build up its technical/career center, Breitenbach said.
Mesilien, who worked with six other students, said he enjoyed working on the homes. “We worked on framing and a shed out back,” he said.
Carpentry is not his only new found interest. Mesilien said he is “interested in cooking and cooks as home sometimes.” When asked if he has any specialities, he rattled off some southern style dishes with macaroni and cheese being one of them.
When he isn’t cooking or learning carpentry skills, Mesilien also plays football at the school.
“I play linebacker, defense and kicker,” he said, adding that he likes to tackle mostly.
Mesilien’s skills he learns in carpentry or football only help strengthen him as a person. One of the school’s translators pointed out that if he doesn’t understand something, he will ask.
“You find what students are interested in and find what sticks with them for a lifetime,” Breitenbach said. “You meet where they are. He (Mesilien) came up with no experience and now has 12 weeks experience, so far.
“Habitat hopes to carry this (project) annually,” Breitenbach added. “As we build their skills and Habitat gets confident, we’ll take on more and more. We seek after quality. You want to get is right. You might go slower but I just tell the kids to take time to get it right.”