Seventeen Whitfield students had the opportunity to experience new cultures and engage in volunteer service during a language immersion school-sponsored Spring Break trip to Costa Rica, March 16 – 24, 2019.
Along with two faculty chaperones, Cipriano Casado and Rachel Gassner, the students traveled to the community of Santa Cruz. “This trip was truly an immersion trip in terms of culture and language,” said Casado. “It was only open to sophomores and juniors in Spanish III and above because they really needed to use their Spanish speaking skills. I couldn’t be prouder of these 17 students.”
The itinerary combined language and cultural immersion with service opportunities at El Buho, a small, rural school for 40 children in grades K-6. Whitfield students volunteered at the school each morning, Monday through Friday. They provided classroom support to the school’s four teachers, painted and decorated bathrooms, rebuilt 35 desks, and constructed new bookshelves. In addition, Whitfield volunteers designed and delivered four presentations in Spanish to the student body that complemented the school’s emphasis on character education.
“One of my favorite moments was when we showed the bookshelf we had constructed and decorated to all the students,” said student traveler Tyler Harris ’20. “The looks on all of their faces, as well as the gratitude that they expressed to us after seeing the final product, warmed my heart. I left the school that day feeling so thankful that I could be a part of such an amazing experience because I knew the work that I did that week would have a lasting impact.”
Afternoons and evenings featured a variety of cultural learning activities and field trips including a walking tour and scavenger hunt in Santa Cruz, a pottery making class, and folk dancing lessons. The group also enjoyed canoeing, kayaking, snorkeling, and surfing at Playa Samara and zip lining, horseback riding, and tubing while exploring Rincón de la Vieja National Park.
“I believe that the Costa Rica service trip was one of the most important activities I have done as a Whitfield student,” said participant Davide Pace ’20. “Helping people in need was extremely fulfilling but being in a different and sometimes confusing environment was probably my biggest takeaway. We were all required to speak Spanish the entire trip which was difficult. Going from hearing Spanish for an hour a day in class, to speaking Spanish 24/7 was jarring, but ultimately beneficial to the development of my Spanish, as well as my problem-solving skills. I hope this trip continues to evolve and grow so that even more students can go and experience this life-changing excursion.”