Guatemala trip provides Bolles students opportunity for service, travel

Guatemala trip provides Bolles students opportunity for service, travel
Patterson Guyton, Bolles Class of 2020

A group of nine Bolles upper school students traveled to Guatemala in June as part of a new school service learning experience led by Bolles faculty, Erin DuChanois of Ortega Farms and Allison Chandler of San Marco. In addition to serving in two Guatemalan schools during their seven-day visit, students toured historical buildings, Mayan ruins, volcanoes and other cultural sites. The trip also inspired new community service initiatives and club projects expected to launch during the 2017-18 school year.

“It was a trip that opened our students’ eyes and captivated their hearts,” Duchanois said. “They were exposed to the poverty that exists and to various groups who are working to teach Guatemalans how to make a better life for themselves.”

Allison Chandler, Bolles Latin American History teacher

Allison Chandler, Bolles Latin American History teacher

Students on the Bolles Guatemala trip included San Jose resident Patterson Guyton, Ellie Anderson, Lauren MacGregor, Jordan Bunn, Chloe Coffindaffer, Kate Gatto, Kavi Kerner, Skyler Mitchell and Nick Maniatis.

DuChanois is connected to Guatemala through her brother, who lives in Guatemala City and works for the Cooperative for Education (CoEd), a nonprofit organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of Guatemala’s poverty through education. DuChanois visited the country last year and contemplated ways she might help link Bolles students with Guatemalan students served by CoEd.

Upon returning to Bolles, DuChanois found enthusiastic support in Chandler, who teaches Bolles’ Latin American History elective. Chandler’s first trip to Guatemala inspired her to become a teacher. DuChanois and Chandler staged a student trip application process in the spring, challenging selected students to research and present Guatemalan topics of historical significance. Selected students also spent time fundraising for the purchase of three bookshelves and school supplies for the Guatemalan students.

In Guatemala, the students visited a “morning school” where they interacted with elementary-age Guatemalan children in the classroom and painted the bookshelves they donated. They also visited an “afternoon school,” where Bolles students teamed with middle school-age Guatemalan students in their computer lab. They taught Guatemalan students how to create a Sway page featuring videos they made on different topics.

“The students were so welcoming to us, and our students didn’t hesitate to get involved,” Chandler said. “It was that human interaction, the ability to learn from each other, that made the experience so special. We received much more from them than we gave.”

The trip also included touring historical buildings in Guatemala City and Antigua, climbing a volcano, visiting the Iximche Mayan ruins and watching a Mayan ceremony, shopping in colorful marketplaces in Antigua, Panajachel, and Santiago, and boating to several Mayan villages on Lake Atitlan.

“One of the students’ favorite activities was climbing the Pacaya volcano,” DuChanois said. “Roasting marshmallows on the crater of a volcano is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!”

As the 2017-18 school year approaches, students and trip leaders are mulling ways they can continue their Guatemalan service mission. One participant wants to start a new student club that will raise funds for CoEd and help meet the educational needs of students in Guatemala. The club also aims to bring an awareness to Bolles students of how education can help break the cycle of poverty. Another student wants to begin a pen pal/email program with the middle school students. Organizers also hope to plan a similar trip to Guatemala again, so more Bolles students can experience the country and its people.

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