By serving the community through mission trips, students of FHC have found meaning and purpose


Various photographers

Seniors Rylie Beatty and Julia Carlson showcasing the fun they have serving, while making a huge impact on the community.

Senior Rylie Beatty is somewhat of a world traveler.

She has been going to Haiti since she was twelve years old. However, her trips do not primarily consist of relaxing at the beach, visiting tourist attractions, or purchasing souvenirs. Rylie does something more—something different.

When she was eight or nine years old, Rylie had to stay behind as her mother went to a small island off the coast of Haiti—La Gonâve—to serve their community and make a sliver of the world a better place.

Finally, when she turned twelve, her mom started bringing Rylie along on the journey.

Since Rylie is only seventeen and does not have a specific career that she could assist in—like her mom who has become the Director of Education through Starfysh, the nonprofit organization she and Rylie work with—she primarily helps out with the kids in the community, whether that means assisting them with their homework or simply being their friend.

“I really like working with the kids,” Rylie said. “The kids are definitely where my heart is, always.” 

Haiti has grown to become a second home for Rylie. She has become accustomed to their culture and way of life, and she always finds it extremely hard to say goodbye to the people and places she loves ever so dearly. 

“I feel very at home when I’m [in Haiti], and it’s the hardest [place] to leave,” Rylie said. “I’m always sobbing when I leave because I love it so much and I just feel very safe; I very rarely miss people or things when I’m there. I never miss my bed. I never miss the hot showers. I never miss my friends. I never miss anything like that.” 

For many people, including Rylie, going on mission trips has opened their eyes to a fresh outlook on life. Yet, on a personal level, Rylie’s trips to Haiti have shown her how different the world really is and have helped her grow to be much more appreciative of what she has.

Haiti is a third-world country, which means they are greatly impoverished and have little access to resources due to their economic situation. This is much different than what Rylie was used to, seeing that she has lived in the United States her whole life, and it helped shine a new light on how Rylie perceives the world.

Once you actually experience [their circumstance], it clicks in your head, and once you start making friendships with the people that don’t have the same things you do, it just changes your perspective on everything.

— Rylie Beatty

“I feel [like] we’re [living in] a small bubble,” Rylie said. “Especially being in Forest Hills, [there is] a bubble of what we know and what we are surrounded by. Every one of our friends has a solid house and has food in their fridge. And so [traveling to Haiti] definitely changed my perspective of the world. Once you actually experience [their circumstances], it clicks in your head, and once you start making friendships with the people that don’t have the same things you do, it just changes your perspective on everything.” 

With this in mind, though she is extremely grateful for all that she has and the opportunities that she is presented with to be able to help others, Rylie still feels a twinge of guilt when she returns home from Haiti. 

“I always feel really guilty,” Rylie explained. “[I know] I shouldn’t, but I always feel really guilty when I come home for a week or two. ‘Oh, I can take a warm shower. I have food in my fridge. I have a roof over my head.’ So [going to Haiti] changed the way I look at things.” 

Unfortunately, in July, the most recent time that Rylie visited Haiti, the president was assassinated within the first twelve hours of their arrival. She and her mom were told that, for safety measures, their trip should be cut short from 21 days to nine. This was a shock to Rylie’s system, especially since she was not planning on such a short excursion. 

With all of the panic this last-minute decision brought about, there were certain places that Rylie and some of the other volunteers could not help out, such as the mountains. That left them with half of their remaining days to do whatever they wanted. Rylie spent her time entertaining and playing with the kids, and she would not have had it any other way.

“[The kids and I] would just hang out,” Rylie said. “I really grew to love those kids and get to know them really, really well. It was so hard to leave them again, just because I grew to love them and have my heart so connected to them.”

Like Rylie, seniors and twin sisters Julia and Jaelynn Carlson, have found a piece of themselves in going on mission trips.

Beginning in seventh grade, courtesy of their godfather who is a large advocate for mission trips, Julia and Jaelynn both fell in love with the practice. Since then, they’ve never looked back.

“[Going on mission trips] makes you realize that you have the opportunity to do something that’s bigger than yourself and to give back,” Julia said. “It’s really cool to be able to share with people that there’s more to ‘religion.’ It’s not just about the ‘religion,’ it’s about serving others and being faithful stewards and showing people that you can be more than just your faith. You can be a person of service and someone that can help other people.” 

Jaelynn and Julia go on mission trips through their church. During these trips, the twins grow closer in their relationship with God, bring aid to the community, and make lasting memories and friendships. 

“I feel more connected to myself, but most importantly with God.” Jaelynn said. “[Mission trips] separate you from the outside world and really put [things] into perspective.” 

At their old church, mission-trip locations would predominantly be in Pennsylvania or New Mexico. Their new church, which they switched to a few years ago, travels to West Virginia, Haiti, and Mexico, which is where Julia and Jaelynn will be going during the upcoming holiday break. 

The most recent mission trip that Julia and Jaelynn went on was in West Virginia. It was a new experience for them because they were completely separated into groups with people from all over the country. Though they went into that trip barely knowing anyone, the twins came out with many new friends that they still keep in touch with today.

“It’s really cool to realize that you don’t need that constant communication,” Julia said. “You don’t need [to constantly be] spending time together. You just build that relationship there, and it lasts.”

Similar to Rylie’s experience, going on mission trips has truly revealed new points of view for Jaelynn. While having the opportunity to be able to help people live a better life, she has become that much more grateful for all that she is able to have and will not take it for granted. 

“It makes me feel blessed to have what I have,” Jaelynn said. “But it makes my heart hurt and feel good in the same way because I see people with less than [what we have], but . . . they have way more since they have family or friends and they just rely on the community more. It really puts [things] into perspective; with everything at the reach of our fingertips, we don’t really fall back on our friends. We kind of just take everything for granted.”