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Two spring breaks… sort of

Ty Underwood is just days away from the end of his second spring break this year as a high school student.

Underwood, a student at Polk County High School, is in the middle of the Polk spring break this week.

But he took another spring break at the end of March.

With the permission of teachers and the school&squo;s principal, Underwood worked ahead in his classes so that he could go on a mission trip to New Orleans, Louisana.

Generally, Henderson County and Polk County schools have the same spring break, but this was the first year they didn&squo;t, he said, so he had to work harder to go on the trip.

Underwood&squo;s first spring break wasn&squo;t the ordinary relaxed week at home or at the beach that most might think of.

Instead, he spent his time installing drywall and applying a coat of primer to an elderly woman&squo;s house in New Orleans&squo; ninth ward.

Underwood and some Henderson County students took the trip with the Unitarian Universalists Church in Hendersonville and worked with the Episcopal Outreach group.

But it wasn&squo;t all work and no play for the Polk junior. He visited the French Quarter, listened to live jazz and shopped in the French Market.

Most of all, Underwood got a glimpse of the city that captured the nation&squo;s eye nearly three years ago when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast so severely.

&dquo;A lot of it had been rebuilt considerably,&dquo; Underwood said.

And most of the businesses were open and French Quarter was filled with tourists, he said.

&dquo;Most of the residential areas are still suffering,&dquo; he said. &dquo;A lot of the places still looked like the storm just hit yesterday.&dquo;

Underwood&squo;s parents, Katha and Gary Underwood, are thrilled that their son took the opportunity to help with the Katrina recovery effort.

&dquo;I&squo;m sure more of us would have liked to help these unfortunate families,&dquo; his mom said. &dquo;It can be very difficult to leave work or school to extend a helping hand, but Ty figured out a way to do just that.&dquo;

And now that his real spring break is wrapping up, would he have done it any differently?

&dquo;Not at all,&dquo; he said. &dquo;I think it was an excellent experience. If it were available to do on my spring break, I would go back.&dquo;