By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – While many students look forward to April vacation as a time to catch up on sleep and visit with friends, a group of 15 students from Shrewsbury High School (SHS) will be spending their vacation in the Dominican Republic participating in an eight-day community service project. They will be working with the organization Community Service Alliance through the tour company, Education First, which offers immersive educational travel.
As part of the project, students will be participating in projects such as construction of a community center and clinic, gardening, English and Spanish tutoring, leadership projects, public health workshops, and other community development projects. The goal is to improve the quality of life for people in underserved mountain communities in the Dominican Republic.
The trip is a level 5 cultural immersion, indicating that there will be no “Americanization” of the students” environment. The group will be living as the locals and speaking and hearing the local language. It is a unique opportunity for the students and teachers alike to learn about another culture and give back to a community in need.
Joining teacher chaperones Patricia Busso and Curtis Bellemer will be juniors Tom Bodden, Keisha Champagne, Abigail Clermont, Erin Cossette, Alie Curran, Laura Debiasio, Alexa Deraney,?Amber Fijol, Georgia Giedymin, Erin Laverty, Hannah Murray, Shane Smith, Kylee Smith, Emily Taylor, and senior James Howard.
“I have always understood how lucky I am to live in a town like Shrewsbury, but the Dominican Republic is frankly a whole other world and like no place I have visited before,” Taylor said. “After realizing how little the people in the Dominican Republic have, I knew I wanted to go and help them. I hope to take away an even greater appreciation for my home and lessons that I can share with my friends and family to, hopefully, inspire
a new way of thinking or even incite actions that would further benefit countries like the Dominican Republic.”
She added that she is “most looking forward to meeting the community that we are helping and showing them that there are good people out there who care about their hardships and truly want to help.”
Unlike Taylor, Busso has visited the Dominican Republic and seen the needs firsthand.
“I chose this trip because I was able to go to the Dominican Republic this past August with a student education tour company and see firsthand the community service projects they had vetted,” she said. “I was able to visit six sites in various parts of the country, and was extremely impressed with the research this company had done, as well as with the sustainability, authenticity, and sense of ownership each of the projects provided for the communities they served.”
Busso hopes that the students gain global awareness by immersing themselves in a very different culture, develop leadership skills, and, most importantly, get a sense of how an authentic community service experience can change how they view the world and lead to future service-oriented endeavors.
The cost of the trip is roughly $2,700 per student. As a way to offset the cost, students have been selling “Cure for the Winter Blues” raffle entries for a basket full of donations from generous local businesses, including a portable generator and an autographed David Ortiz photograph, with a total value of over $1,600.
Raffle entries can be purchased at all SHS varsity hockey games at the North Star Youth Forum on Bridle Lane in Westborough; at the front desk of the high school, 64 Holden St., on any school day from 2-2:30 p.m.; or by mailing a check to Sue Curran, 27 Hunting Ave., Shrewsbury, MA., 01545. All checks should be made out to Shrewsbury High School with DR Raffle or DR Donation in the memo, name, and phone number. Tickets are $3 each; two for $5; five for $10; or 12 for $20. The raffle will be drawn Wednesday, Feb. 26.