With each new year of service comes an excitement for new experiences and an eagerness to welcome new students to our mission, but it is also an opportunity to shine a light on the sustained engagement of our World Changers. An inspiration to all, these individuals have devoted their school vacations to giving back through School The World service trips for three or even four years, enriching their worldviews and illuminating their passion for learning. While other high schoolers are cramming for exams or catching up on their favorite TV show, our World Changers are reflecting on their service trips and brainstorming ways to intensify their impact on making education accessible to all. They are each able to pinpoint particularly poignant moments from past trips, illustrating the lasting impression their service has left in their hearts and motivating them to continue to incorporate this important work throughout their future endeavors.
Hannah Clarke, who has chosen to make a fourth trip to Guatemala, remembers a particularly inspiring conversation with two local staff members, Celia and Magdalena. She spoke with the sisters about striving for the education they desired and deserved. “They pushed and persevered unlike any other young women had ever done within their community. And they won, excelling all the way to university,” Clarke shares proudly. Celia and Magdalena ignited a passion for learning that Clarke hadn’t seen in herself before, and she is thankful for their help in this self discovery. She says, “I am forever grateful for the experiences and relationships that I have formed within Guatemala. Through these conversations and learnings, I have discovered my passion for international development and hope to pursue this type of work in college and my future career.”
Another World Changer, Julia Petalcorin, expresses an appreciation for the involvement of the families in Guatemala. “We often speak about the children and their passion for education, but it is not only them. It is also their parents,” says Petalcorin. “Although these families have so little, they have given us so much.” She recalls a small moment that is forever ingrained in her memories. On her first day in the community, her group ate lunch sitting on the ground. Even though the students didn’t think twice about it, the families of the community decided to open their hearts and toolboxes to give them a warm welcome. “The next day, when we arrived in the community,” Petalcorin remembers, “ I noticed that the fathers built us a table and bench so we could eat properly. It was in this kind gesture that I began to realize how deep this program truly runs and that we are all working together.” She has fond memories of dancing and making tortillas with the families, and hopes they will keep her in their hearts, as they will forever stay in hers.
Helen Cheever’s first trip to Guatemala was in 2016 to a community called Choaxan. As she preps for her third trip, she remembers an initial interaction with a group of boys who were huddled around a book. “At first the boys were a little shy. Who was this tall American girl trying to hang out with them?” Once they became more comfortable, the boys were pointing at pictures in the book and imitating Cheever’s pronunciations of English words. “Their eagerness and enthusiasm to learn even on a day that they didn’t have school struck me,” Cheever shares. “I wanted to be a part of a place where learning was so greatly valued.” Though Cheever has a plethora of fond memories from her trips, the most touching moment revolves around a tiny plastic airplane. “Over the course of the week, I had gotten very close to a little boy named Tomas. He actually happened to be one of the little boys who I had helped teach English to on the first day,” Cheever says. “As I bent down to give him a big hug… he placed a small object in the palm of my hand. It was a tiny plastic red and green airplane. I was stunned. Here was a young boy who barely had anything, giving me one of his own possessions. I tried to give it back, but he wouldn’t let me.” When Cheever returned to Choaxan a year later, she brought Tomas’s airplane with her. Hugging him goodbye again, she asked if he remembered it, and he nodded. She shares, “Then I pulled out my own tiny metal airplane and handed it to him. It immediately brought tears to his eyes and he gave me a giant hug. As we drove away I thought about what an important place Choaxan will always be to me.”
All of the fond memories our World Changers keep in their hearts are an inspiration to future World Changers, showing just how meaningful these trips can be. Cheever shares, “Choaxan is where I found my true passion for service and for helping others, and to me this tiny plastic airplane is a constant reminder of Tomas and the entire Choaxan community, and the change I know I can continue to make in the world.”