While many of us enjoyed our Winter Break on the slopes, traveling, or with a “staycation,” a determined group of 7th and 8th graders spent their week in Nicaragua helping build a home for an underserved family. This once-in-a-lifetime experience was planned and organized by Middle School Spanish teacher Angela Ponzio, and also allowed our kids to be immersed in the Spanish language while there for a week. Sure, they had fun and enjoyed some downtime, but they also worked hard to make a home become a reality for a deserving family. The students spoke up at our Morning Meeting on Monday and were clearly touched by the experience. They spoke about what the trip meant to them and what they learned and gained from the incredible experience (one of them, Sophie Johnson, spoke entirely in Spanish). Especially touching was Luis Reyes’ comment that given a choice between his cell phone and helping the family in Nicaragua, he’d choose the service option (very telling in this day and age). Here’s more from Angela Ponzio on the trip:
“This trip has been a blessing to us all. The students came to give, and all agreed at our final evening reflection that they felt as though they had received more because of it. It’s amazing how that works. As Michael Mahoney said, “The trip gave our students a glimpse into the developing world and its continuing struggle to cope with endemic poverty. Admittedly, we parachuted in and then departed, but the kids and we three teachers will have potent memories that shore up the abstractions of standard American education. There is no substitute for experience. You can’t beat learning through daring.” It was remarkable to witness the bonds between the students growing stronger day by day. “Being united with a common goal and being immersed completely in the culture language and people was awesome!” Levi Tyler believes, “I’ll never forget it.”
For many of us, our final days were filled with tears and emotion, as we bade farewell to the children that we played, talked, and bonded with daily at the construction site. “It was amazing to see what little they had but how much they shared with us,” shares Audrey Brinkmann-Piuma. “Even though they didn’t have much they were so happy. It’s weird to come back to a place where people have so much and still want more.”
To the students, I know that I am not alone when I say that we are so proud of you all. You gave 100% of yourselves to the project and the people of Nicaragua. You worked tremendously hard building the house alongside grown adults. It is no secret: we will miss Nicaragua so much, but we’ve left our footprints behind and changed lives by lending a hand! ¡Viva Nicaragua!”
What compelling statements. We also honored the students at a full school assembly at the end of the day on Wednesday and showed a video created by Luis Reyes with tons of pictures of their week. Kudos to Angela Ponzio, and to Michael Mahoney and Christine Brinkmann for helping chaperone and supervise the kids.
I also want to take a moment to thank all of you who have wished me good luck on my trip to Japan this week to run the Tokyo Marathon! The cards the kids made meant the world to me, and I’ll be thinking about them and St. Francis during parts of my run. I’ll be sure to send along pictures and an update. Lower School LASS teacher Sarah Dewberry will fill in for me next week with an article about the 4th grade Living History Museum, so be on the look out for that! Sayonara!