Escaping from the frigid Pennsylvania weather, 12 Shippensburg University students traveled to the Dominican Republic where they spent a week working with children at the Pathways of Learning School in Santo Domingo.
For the past five years, the Honors Program at Shippensburg University has sent a delegation of students and faculty to the Dominican Republic to fulfill the service-learning project, “Reach Out.” The purpose of the trip is to address the issue of education inequality and work with the teachers and students at the Pathways of Learning School.
Jan. 5-12, SU students observed and participated in classroom activities at the elementary school in the Dominican Republic. Jarrett “Jev” Voight, an art major with a concentration in computer graphics, created an art integration manual to illustrate the ways teachers can use art in the classroom and inspire students. Hannah Dreibelbis, an early-childhood education major, created a mathematics manual to help the teachers improve their lessons with students.
While working with the teachers at Pathways of Learning School, Reach Out members were able to receive feedback on the workshops they led and learn about the culture of the Dominican Republic. By the end of the week, the Reach Out members and the teachers at Pathways of Learning became a team for the betterment of education, Voight said.
In preparation for the trip, Stephanie Erdice of the Women’s Center, Robert Lesman of the modern languages department and Gretchen Pierce of the history department mentored the Reach Out students and helped them raise funds.
Leading up to the day of departure, the Reach Out students collected supplies from a Dollar Tree fundraiser, learned about the history of the Dominican Republic, and practiced teaching lessons and implementing activities.
Kim Klein, the director of the Honors Program, created the Reach Out service-learning project as a part of an honors seminar class she taught in the fall of 2009.
“I wanted to expand our students’ opportunities to apply their disciplinary knowledge and skills beyond the local community by initiating a global service project,” Klein said.
During their stay, Reach Out students and faculty stay at a mission house run by the Church of the Nazarene. The house is run by Eliezel Soto and his family, who welcome SU students each time they visit.
When Reach Out members were not volunteering in the classroom they were involved in after-school programs run by the mission or taking educational trips. SU students took students from the Pathways of Learning School on a field trip to Trampolín Children’s Museum, an interactive museum in the historic district of Santo Domingo.
At the end of the day, students would meet to reflect about their experiences and discuss what they had learned.
Although SU students are the ones bringing supplies and teaching methods to the Pathways of Learning School, the Reach Out members are often the ones who feel the impact of their service.
“I have traveled with Reach Out twice, and I have grown so much as a student and as a person while working with the team and being blessed with the opportunity to go to the Dominican Republic and interact with the teachers and students,” Voight said.
Any student can apply to be a part of the 2014-2015 Reach Out program. Interested students are encouraged to contact Kim Klein at email@example.com for more information.