The African Diaspora and District Study Abroad programs, housed at the Division of Global Learning Programs and Services, sent eight Skyline College students to teach English to elementary school students in Antigua, Guatemala from August 1 – 8, 2015. This Service Learning Program was the capstone project for the students who participated in the African Diaspora Mentorship Program, and was conducted in partnership with New Zealand-based International Volunteer HQ. The Service Leaders for the program were Communication Professor Danielle Powell and Program Services Coordinator Alina Din.
For many of the students, it was their first time traveling out of the country, and for some, first time even flying on an airplane! The students and their two faculty leaders resided in a homestay with a very friendly and loving host, Doña Maria. Every morning, the students enjoyed chilly, low-pressure showers and a hot Guatemalan breakfast before boarding their shuttle to teach students aged 4-12 how to read and write in English. The experience was indeed life-changing and eye-opening for our students. After her fourth day teaching, Dominique Bill reflected, “School is a luxury here because even elementary school students need to work to help support their families. If a student drops out of school in Guatemala, no one cares. It makes me realize how good we have it in States!”
The Service Learning Program was also instrumental in helping other students of Central American origin feel more connected to their roots. Yuffita Palacios spoke of how much closer this experience made her feel with her parents: “Having parents who hail from Central America, this connected me to their history and how their past life was for them – it fills me with a sense of pride I can’t describe. All the stories my parents told me, I’ve seen them come to life here. My parents always wanted me to know about our culture and to see how far they have come. This program was a like a revelation.”
Despite only being in Guatemala for one week, the students developed close bonds with the young children they taught and came out of the program with a new sense of independence, fearlessness, and renewed hopes for the future. For Stephanie Allen, it helped define future goals and taking advantage of current opportunities. “[This program] has shown me that I 100% want to work with kids now, and there is nothing that can get in my way except my own fears. For people in Guatemala, it’s really hard to move up in society. In the U.S., there’s so much help you can get even if you’re not wealthy.”
To read the daily accounts of our students’ service learning experience in Guatemala, please check out the blog at http://smcccdservicelearning.blogspot.com.
To learn more about future Study Abroad and Service Learning Programs, please visit the District Study Abroad website at http://skylinecollege.edu/educationabroad/
Article and Photo by Alina Din