Tenth Graders from Democracy Prep Harlem High School traveled to Quito, Ecuador in February. Here, a scholar reflects on how the trip changed her world view.
The Service Project
On the first morning of our Ecuador trip, my fellow scholars and I woke up early for our first day of service at an elementary school in Quito called Colonia Saint Lucia Alta. Minutes into our time on campus, the tour guide informed us that the school had been robbed recently of its electronic devices. This shocked me to no end because I couldn’t wrap my mind around why people would steal from an elementary school! However, this information motivated me to work hard for the children. Our goal was to help make the school as beautiful as possible to provide the kids with a learning space where they could feel safe, comfortable and proud of their school.
Our tasks in the school varied by groups: some cleaned the garden, lifted rocks, pulled weeds and garbage from the front of the building, painted the gate and walls of the school, and redecorated the areas we cleaned with flowers throughout the four days we did service. On the last day of service we were able to interact with the children for an hour and get to know them better, something that was more amazing than seeing the progress we made in the school. It was one of the most enlightening experiences I’ve ever had.
Getting Out Of My Comfort Zone
We spent our mornings volunteering with the school, but in the afternoon we had the opportunity to explore Ecuador which gave me many chances to push myself outside of my comfort zone, to try new things that I did not think that I could do.One of those things was learning how to ride a two-wheeled bike for the first time. Riding a bike beside my peers empowered me and made me believe that even though I thought I could not do something. If I tried I could make it happen.
On the last day of the trip, we went whitewater rafting, which was by far the most exciting thing I’ve ever done. Although I didn’t know how to swim, I was pushed into the river multiple times by friends and enjoyed every second of it. At the beginning of the trip, I was worried about rafting. I felt that because I didn’t know how to swim, something bad would happen. But after the many times where I had to get out of my comfort zone, the last day seemed almost easy.
We also explored a natural cave, rode a cable car, and climbed up steep steps of the Basilica del Voto Nacional church to the highest point of the 377-foot structure. I felt proud of the fact that we had all made it up the steps together despite the many people who had a fear of heights.
My experience will stay with me for the rest of my life. I learned so many things about myself and the world. I learned that I can speak to different types of people, that it was okay to try new things, and that I am appreciative of all of the opportunities we have in the U.S.
For me, this trip did not end in Ecuador. I hope that we are able to continue the service that we started and pave the way for something bigger. This trip for me was a small step in my goal to change the world.
About the Author:
Kadiatou K.is a tenth-grade scholar at Democracy Prep Harlem High School. When she’s not traveling the world, she enjoys performing as a part of DPPS’s Korean Dance Group and exploring her potential as an actress in school plays.