The Guatemala Showcase inspired laughs, smiles, and tears this past Tuesday afternoon in front of an audience of over 40 faculty, staff, and students at Skyline College. Four students served as panelists who traveled to Antigua, Guatemala to teach English to elementary schools students as part of the District’s Service Learning Abroad program. The students were Kandace Davis, Yuffita Palacios, Autumn Ragler, and Martha Torres. Professor Danielle Powell led the panel discussion and gave an excellent overview of how the program came to fruition, the travel preparations each participant made before their trip, and the strong, positive impact they had on the children they taught in Guatemala.
Most of the panelists did not have passports prior to leaving for the program, and none of them had flown out of the country before. It was a growing experience for them, and their reflections were heartfelt, honest, and poignant. For Autumn, the experience made her “realize just how good we have it in the States, and how little the kids had in Guatemala. They were crazy about getting stickers!”
Kandace was struck by the “wide discrepancies in health services available to Guatemalans” and how “children with clear learning and social disabilities were simply tolerated and kept on the sidelines because the resources simply weren’t there to support them.”
Martha discussed at length how the experience changed her life and inspired her to remain a lifelong volunteer to all people in need around the world.
Yuffita emotionally reflected on her parents’ stories of their impoverished life in Nicaragua suddenly coming to life before her eyes when she witnessed the living conditions of the poor in Yalu, their simple concrete housing, and how the only entertainment the children had was playing with old dogs on the street.
The audience listened intently, and when asked at the end of the event how many of them wanted to go on next years’ service learning abroad program, almost all the hands in the room went up! This was a testament to the transformative experience each of our students underwent, and the impact the panelists were able to make in just thirty minutes of speaking from their hearts.
SMCCCD Study Abroad, housed at the Division of Global Learning Services and Programs at Skyline College, is in the planning phase for its next service learning program, set to take place summer 2016. Visit the Study Abroad website for the most up-to-date information about upcoming programs, events and information sessions.
Article by Alina Din | Photo by Alessandra Zanassi