Spanish students help out in Guatemala

Wyatt Thompson, Nichole Robidou, Connor Brown, Levi Patton and Eric Jacobs haul rubble in the hot sun.

Hauling dirt in wheelbarrows to reforest Lake Atitlan. Expanding a building to create office space for mission volunteers. Working on a community coffee plantation.

These are experiences that 17 Century Junior High students will not soon forget.

Nor will they take for granted their comfortable life in America.

Back row, from left: Maddy Devich, Emma Gadberry, Madison Hudson and Destiny Olson. Front row: Marin Kolstad, Alexa Miller and Anna Halvorson.

A service trip to Guatemala in July, under the leadership of Spanish teacher Pamela Schultze, took them to San Luqueños, a predominantly Mayan community that faces poverty on a daily basis.

Americans take much for granted, the students concluded, including clothing, shoes, food and a bed to sleep on — with a fluffy pillow. Several times during this eye-opening trip, ninth-grader Eric Jacobs commented, “How fortunate our families are here in the United States.”

“Now I know how lucky I am to have a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in every night,” said traveler Madison Hudson. “I really never thought about our privileges until I participated in this service trip.”

Wyatt Thompson agreed. “They eat a lot of tortillas,” he said. “The girls wear mostly home-made dresses, and they are just starting to get electric stoves in public places.  They do not have a lot of purified water to drink and they work long, long days.”

The trip was not all toil. The students enjoyed the beauty of Lake Atitlan and its three surrounding volcanoes. They took a traditional Guatemalan lancha across the lake to visit the village of Santiago. Also included in their eight-day journey were Panajachel and the Spanish colonial town of La Antigua.

“There were lots of fun memories from this trip,” said Madelyn Devich. “It was an amazing experience to go shopping and use your Spanish skills to get the price you wanted.”

“My favorite part was trying their food and experiencing their culture,” Nicole Robidou said.

In her 28-year career, Schultze has led hundreds of students through the natural beauty and cultural highlights of Spain, Mexico, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Guatemala.

“Century students were proud to come out of their comfort zone in Forest Lake and work side by side with the locals of San Lucas using only their beginning-level Spanish,” she said. “The rewards are huge as students’ eyes are opened to the lifestyles of other kids their own age.”

“When we give of our time and talents, we learn so much about our capabilities as individuals,” she concluded.