Recorder: "Greenfield High School students poised to go to Nicaragua"

By JOSHUA SOLOMON

Recorder Staff

Monday, June 26, 2017

GREENFIELD — It was winter break, and as Greenfield High School junior Maiya Johnston got into the family car, her mother asked, “So, did you find anything out?”

Puzzled, the senior replied, “No, what are you talking about?”

“I know something you don’t know,” teased her mother, who had gotten word about the emails that were reaching a select group of GHS students that day.

The message quickly spread among the group of 11 GHS students: They had been chosen to go on a trip to Nicaragua to teach English to locals, from July 30 to Aug. 13.

Along with six students at Springfield Central High School, the Greenfield group will be part of a pilot program to expand Global Glimpse, a nonprofit now in the Chicago, New York City and the San Francisco Bay areas, to a fourth location, western Massachusetts.

The program typically costs $4,600 with all expenses included, but through various fundraising platforms and aid provided by Global Glimpse, students are paying closer to $500.

“The trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Johnston said. “The fact that they subsidize the cost...I wouldn’t have been able to do it if they didn’t bring down the price.”

The process to get accepted into the program was rigorous.

Teachers nominated about 30 high school juniors. The program is three weeks abroad followed by a leadership component in the next school year.

Students then had to put together an application full of essays, shrinking the pool of potential students. Come that winter break day, 11 students found out they were accepted.

“It was sort of a surprise,” Elsa Kieffer said. “To be nominated meant that everyone thought I was capable of this, which makes you feel good.”

Kevin Gifford added, “It’s an honor to be chosen for this. I would like to travel but Nicaragua would have never crossed my mind to go.”

Travelling to a foreign country where most of the students don’t speak the native language will pose its own challenges for the rising seniors.

Some students were nervous about being away from home, others about whether their family members can sufficiently take care of a pet, others about staying safe from bug bites and dehydrations – and others, of course, were nervous about not having the ability to be on their cellphones all the time.

“I’m really excited to have more experiences under my belt because the more experiences you have the more people you can relate to,” Lazarous Santiago said.

And there’s plenty to be excited about: new food, new challenges and something that has already set in, new friends.

“Before maybe some of us wouldn’t have talked in the hallway but now we can talk,” Mikaylah Rhayne said. “Even if we weren’t good friends before, we have really bonded well.”

Tannin Costa added: “There couldn’t have been a better group of people to go together. We flow so well.”

Leading up to the trip, students ran bake sales and held a spaghetti fundraiser at the Moose Lodge in Greenfield, where they served teachers and their families in an effort to raise money for the trip.

“Just being able to bond over the smallest things,” Holly Sears said. “We make every moment not a dull one. Even if we’re just waiting to sell a cupcake.”

At the helm of it all was their teacher Terri Dodge who, supported by acting Principal Karin Patenaude, has helped to create an exciting environment for the students to prep for their activities abroad.

“It’s very rewarding to be a part of molding their characters,” said Dodge, a favorite of the students. “There characters have already started molding, but I’m just looking forward to their change.”

When the students are in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, they will be guided where to go for safe food and water. One student each day will lead the group and then that student will submit a journal entry that night.

For one day, the students will be with a host family instead of in a hostel, and have the experience of living locally.

Come senior year, the students will likely help the next class of juniors go on this trip, while networking with other “ambassadors,” potentially in New York.

With school officially ending this week, the students have about a month of summer before together they board a plane headed for Nicaragua.

The 11 Greenfield High School students who will be going on the trip are: Tannin Costa, Mikaylah Rhayne, Ana Blagadarenco, Kevin Gifford, Lazarous Santiago, Gabby Weeden, Holly Sears, Maiya Johnston, Elsa Kieffer, Hannah Gonzalez and Casey Noyes.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264