Prep Students Serve Communities In-Need During Break Trips


Gabby de la Pena '19 working on a home in New Orleans. De la Pena has attended the New Orleans service trip for three years, and was a leader for two of them.

Tia Flores, Staff Writer

Each year, Prep students are given opportunities to participate in unique immersion programs to better themselves and the community the work in. This includes every spring and summer break, in which Prep students travel to New Orleans, the Dominican Republic, and to Vietnam and Cambodia.

This previous spring break, 20 students from Prep attended the one-week immersion trip to NOLA. There, students primarily assisted in rebuilding the homes lost after Hurricane Katrina. Evan Shoemaker ’20 was one of these students. “On the job site, I learned how to put up the trusses that support the roof of a house, nailed up siding, caulked, painted the exterior of houses, painted rain barrels, and installed insulation,” says Shoemaker. “I would definitely recommend this trip because it teaches you practical skills for building/maintaining a house, gives you an excellent taste of New Orleans, and informs you and widens your perspectives more intimately and powerfully than any classroom could.” Abby Allen ’21 was another student who attended this trip for the first time. “My biggest takeaway was that it is so important to help other people and be aware of their struggles,” says Allen. “Building houses felt so good because I knew that I was changing someone’s life.”

From summer, from June 9th– June 22nd, in-coming seniors will attend the service trip to the Dominican Republic. Mr. Hendricks, Prep Collegio teacher, and soccer coach accompanied students on this trip of the summers of 2017 and 2018. “One big takeaway is that there are people that experience real consequences from the social injustices we study in class. When you live in a home that has inconsistent electricity or a community that suffers from a coffee disease that harmed the recent crop, you understand that you play a role in the global economy that is structurally unjust, and it makes you want to do your part,” offers Hendricks. “It is a transformative experience and can lead to more growth in you than you initially believe is possible…. I would certainly encourage all of our students to be open to applying next year, and who knows, I might be able to have the chance to go again.”

Emma Grossman ’20 will be attending the DR trip this summer. “I’m hoping to gain a solid understanding of what it really means to be in solidarity with the people you serve and to learn the importance of partnership with those you serve,” she says.

Although the Vietnam/Cambodia trip was offered in previous years and the start of this school year, it will not be happening this summer due to a lack of student interest and cost concerns.

Mrs. Bernal, theology teacher and community ministry member, accompanied 12 Prep students on this 14-day trip several years back. “I studied and watched documentaries about the Vietnam War (American War in their perspective) and I thought that I was prepared to see and be at the sites where they all happened. How wrong I was. I couldn’t bear to finish looking at the many photographs of the victims of the war,” says Bernal.  “But you see, every time we would come face to face with these horrors, we were also introduced to many people and organizations working tirelessly to help people who most need it. Yes, we learned all about the terrible things humans can do, BUT most of all, we learned about the goodness we are all capable of.”

“Being able to learn and participate in the practices and traditions of other religions is something I have always admired and tried to do. This trip allowed me to do that in an incredibly special way,” says Wanjiku Hopps ’20, who attended last summer’s trip. “I was able to look into be life from an outward stance…. The cultures, people, sceneries, and things I got to experience in Vietnam and Cambodia has changed me as a person for the better.”

Applications for remaining trips this year are closed but will be open early next school year. Contact Mrs. Ford or Mr. Kelly on campus for more information if interested in more information.