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Two years of planning and designing by UT students and faculty culminated in the opening of a secondary school in Haiti this fall.

The L’Exode Secondary School welcomed its first students in September in the island nation’s town of Fond-des-Blancs, located seventy miles outside of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. Sixty seventh and eighth graders are enrolled.

The school, constructed as part of UT’s Haiti Project, is intended to serve the region of Fond-des-Blancs as an urban migration post for Haitian school children and their families affected by the January 2010 earthquake, which occurred near Port-au-Prince.

The school’s opening marks completion of the first phase of the project, which includes five first-story classrooms, restrooms, and the cafeteria/meeting hall.

“The experiences of the faculty and students who worked on this project in Haiti have been rich beyond measure,” said John McRae, professor and former dean of the UT College of Architecture and Design, who spearheaded the Haiti Project.

McRae, together with Chris King, adjunct faculty member, taught the special studio course where an interdisciplinary team of nineteen students created the designs for the school. McRae attended the school’s grand opening in September along with Jeremy Mefford, a recent UT graduate in civil engineering who was in the class that worked on the school design.

“The visits to the country and community of Fond-des-Blancs, and meeting the people, together with the collaboration with our Haitian partners, has provided a significant level of service learning as well as the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people in need,” McRae said. “Virtually everyone would agree that, in the long run, it is education that will make the difference in Haiti. We are all thankful to have played a part in seeing this new school become a reality.”

The next two phases of the school’s construction will include a second story, male and female dormitories, on-campus faculty housing, a library, and an auditorium. When completed, the 30,000-square-foot complex will serve 500 Haitian children.

Groundbreaking began in May 2011. The construction was under the direction of Jean Thomas, executive director of the Haiti Christian Development Fund. All of the work was done by Haitian contractors with the exception of the cafeteria trusses, which were built on site by volunteers from the United States.


Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,

John McRae (865-974-5267,