It all started at a coffee shop in the Dominican Republic and led to names on a sign-up sheet for a trip to the Dominican Republic during the summer of 2016.
Spanish teacher Carlos Silvestre has been wanting to go on a trip with his students to the Dominican Republic for a long time, and now he is finally able to do so. Silvestre met with a former pastor of his, and the pastor told Silvestre how he started a foundation that brings volunteers from outside the Dominican to help some of the locals. This caused some ideas to be stirred between them.
“We were actually talking over coffee at a little town in the Dominican Republic,” Silvestre said. “He told me what he did [the creation of the foundation] and I said ‘man, you are the perfect guy to get a trip here with a group of kids.’ He said ‘yes, let’s do it,’ so we did.”
Excited for his students, Silvestre could not wait to share this news. This trip is not the first time Silvestre has put together a trip for his students. One year, he organized a trip to Costa Rica and Peru and learned the price is the biggest contributing reason why students could not go.
“I always wanted to do a trip with my students outside of us in a Spanish-speaking country,” Silvestre said. “It is always very expensive to go unless you get a really good deal. I planned [a trip] to Peru and it was over three thousand dollars per person. I almost did not get anybody.”
Getting people to join this year does not seem to be as big of an issue as the past years. Junior Logan Vredenburg is looking forward to joining this year’s trip.
“I heard about it and talked to my parents about it, and they said that they think it would be a great idea for me to go on into it to experience life in a Spanish-speaking country,” Vredenburg said.
Vredenburg is looking forward to all the things that can be experienced, including culture, language, and activities. He plans to take this experience even further by studying abroad for a semester in college.
“It will give me a better understanding of cultures and lives of other people that are not from America,” Vrendenburg said. “I definitely think it will give me a foothold in understanding other countries and experiencing them.”
With his commitment to learning and experiencing other countries, Vrendenburg cannot wait to see what perspectives and changes this trip will bring into his life.
“I have never been to another country where they don’t primarily speak English,” Vrendenburg said. “Just seeing what life is like and helping other people out through service work is something amazing that will come out of the trip.”
Service work and giving back to the community will be the main focus for the students on the trip. They will be fixing, painting, or helping build houses. Silvestre has then planned for them to go to the colonial park of Santo Domingo, where they can learn about the Dominican’s historical Spanish background.
However, service work is not the only activity students have to look forward to; Silvestre has other activities planned to enjoy. They will be staying in a beach town, so Silvestre and his students will have access to the beach every day. They are going to hike or horseback ride up a mountain to a waterfall, go ziplining, and travel to some inland lagoons where they can swim and bungee jump into the water.
“It is the Dominican Republic: why would you not want to go?” said junior Marc Rabideau. “You get to eat good food, hang with Señor [Silvestre], be on the beach, ride horses, and help people out.”
Silvestre and his students seem to be counting down the days until the trip. Overall, they are happy and excited for what is going to come out of this journey.
“It is a great way for me to experience life and learn from the Spanish speaking country and I cannot wait for it,” Vrendenburg said.