Marble Falls students selling pieces of old 281 bridge to benefit program

JARED FIELD • PICAYUNE STAFF

MARBLE FALLS — Tanner Worthing is working to turn something he felt in his belly into something else that might be felt in his, yes, belly.Worthing, a student in the Marble Falls Independent School District 18+ Transition Program, witnessed the March 17 implosion of the old U.S. 281 bridge. The shockwave from the implosion, he said, was felt to his core, or belly.

Now, the students in the program are working to turn pieces of the steel from the bridge into profits that could go toward the program.

“They have to work to earn it, so they’re fundraising to earn money towards things that they’d like to have,” said Jennifer Virdell, the MFISD 18+ Program coordinator. “They keep as self-sufficient as possible.”

The program serves students with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 22 to help them learn to be independent after high school.

A transitional-living house for the program was built in 2011 with a $384,000 grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The house is the focal point of the district’s Learning Independence for Everyday (LIFE) Skills, which provides the students additional training for life after school.

With just three students this year, the program fluctuates in the number of young adults and is expected to have as many as 15 in the coming years. In the mornings, students learn skills around the house and then work at a job in the afternoon.

“Our program is really unique and special; there’s not many of these in the state,” Virdell said. “A lot of people don’t know we have these students.”

With the students selling more than 150 small pieces of the steel from the old bridge, the project has become a good way to spread the word about the transition program.

“It’s great to be able to stand out and for our students to stand out and say, ‘Hey, we can do this and we can learn and we can have a good time doing it,’” Virdell said.

The project came about, Virdell said, because of an idea from her father, who works at Hill Country Recycling. The Marble Falls plant received the steel from the bridge after it was demolished.

The program’s three students spent the morning of May 6 counting and organizing the bridge pieces. Ethan Vidal had a marker and notepad to count as Worthing and Cyle Earwood handled the rivets.

Pieces of the bridge remain for sale. After sorting the pieces, the students will put them into bags and attach a piece of paper with a bit of the bridge’s history.

Anyone interested in buying a remaining piece of the bridge can contact Virdell at (830) 693-5239 or jvirdell@mfisd.txed.net.

jared@thepicayune.com