Serving across borders, between breaks

PLP students traveled over winter break to help kids in need in the Dominican Republic

~Spencer Evans, Staff Writer~

Over the past winter break, while some of us were celebrating the holidays, a group of 17 CNU students of the President’s Leadership Program traveled to the Dominican Republic to engage in community service through Outreach 360.

Outreach 360 is a program that organizes international service trips and helps local areas with education.

The goal is to survey and enhance the experience while getting kids excited for learning. They accomplish this through after school programs that help students learn English and math skills that are used in education programs. 

The work towards CNU’s trip began back in April 2018, when students started planning through the trip.

The students were led by Kerri Musick, Coordinator of Experiential Learning and Juliann Kasza, Coordinator for Leadership Development.

“There is a lot of behind the curtain planning that goes into these events,” Musick said. She and Kasza visited multiple sites to ensure that the area was suitable that the service program was genuine.

After the site visit and some research on the program, Musick and Kasza had to start gauging interest and finding students to go. They held interest meetings before the spring semester ended in 2018.

Student selections happened within the first two weeks of school with a total of 17 students being chosen. After flights were booked, paperwork was completed and everything else was in order, the students fundraised until it was time to embark on the trip.

They left the United States on Dec. 29 and arrived at their destination, the city of Montecristi, the next day.

Their work began on Tuesday. The main goal of the program is to excite kids about learning math and English.In the afternoons, they prepared children for spelling bees and math competitions.

Students got to have their own fun on the trip as well, taking excursions to places such as a banana plantation known as a betay. While they were there, the group entertained and played with local kids.

On Friday, the group traveled to the Haitian border at Dabajó, which opens once a week for trade. When Saturday came, the students got up at 4 a.m. to travel back to the United States.

Going to a foreign country can be a shock to some. Musick had gone on this specific trip before and prepared the group throughout the time that they had before they even left to what they were going to see.

“Honestly, [no one was] was shook to the core,” she said. “I told them to keep an open mind to their surroundings and to the people, who were very hospitable. There are stray dogs in the streets, cows everywhere, no streetlights, and a lot of motorbikes. We would see families of four on motorbike driving down the road.”

As well as helping those in need, students also got to experience and be immersed in another culture. Musick and Kasza saw them open up and end up more inquisitive and curious about their surroundings and the people that live there.

The students alone served a total amount of 680 hours, and with the contributions of the coordinators, community service was 760 hours total.

The coordinators do plan on continuing this program in the future. The trip was a complete success and helped a lot of students and the organization, which only has 3 full time employees for around 100 students. 

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