Unsung Heroes: Students Help a Tiny Village Fulfill Big Goals


Costa Trip 1Their February trip to the Republic of Costa Rica was a life-changing adventure for 10 Clarkstown North High School International Baccalaureate students.

Ceramics teacher Shaina Dunn has overseen the IB programs’ creativity, action and service component for the past eight years. Students receive a separate diploma and take all IB courses during their junior and senior years, completing approximately 150 hours of CAS activities.

In 2013 she took students to Nicaragua through World Challenge “because it fits perfectly into the IB program, but the trips are open to anyone to join,” she said. This year students — two from the IB program — traveled with Dunn, her brother Garlan Dunn (a chaperone) and a World Challenge group leader.

Company representatives confirmed certain conditions prior to departure, provided in-country contacts, and checked itineraries. Armed with the guide contacts, general directions and area logistics, students had to stay within a certain geographic range.

ClarkstownNorthAqueduct“This life-changing adventure has allowed me to look at the world through different eyes,” Juliana Lindell, grade 11, said. “The people I met, things I encountered, and friendships I have created are completely life changing.”

Students prepared for their adventure by fundraising, training with equipment and doing team-building exercises.

“They were given close to $5,000 the first day and had to split this up and use it for all transportation, lodging, food, and supplies needed for our service project,” Dunn said. Two students charge of the budget, and each was leader for a day.

Savvy financial management allowed them to dine out for every meal the last two days, Dunn said. “We stayed in a hostel the first night, and the other days we did a lot of cooking and camping.”

A few students were fluent in Portuguese could easily speak Spanish. “Part of the challenge was communicating,” she said.

ClarkstownNorth_GroupPhoto“We did a service project in Tinamú and at a school that had four students,” she said. The small community of 15 families needed an aqueduct to provide drinking water and for irrigating the local football field, where the community gathers and kids can play.

“We split up with some students digging a trench for an aqueduct they were building, some painted murals on the outside of the school — and brought their art into it — and some taught English.

Jen Silva signed up for the trip to challenge herself financially.

“It was hard work to manage the monthly payments while managing schoolwork yet, looking back, the challenges I faced with the payments were trivial compared to the challenges we faced in Costa Rica,” Silva, grade 12, said. “The smiles in the children’s eyes and the thanks from the local people made the trip worthwhile to me.”

The two days and three nights there were part of an experience “that pushed the kids out of their comfort zones,” Dunn said. “Everyone came back and said it was an incredible trip (and learned) real-life skills, how to travel around developing countries.”

Students donated the remaining balance ($60) toward next February’s trip to Ecuador.

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