From Maple Grove With Love
From Minnesota …
Epley began the program, called Students Connecting Through International Service, seven years ago by collecting donated school supplies for the students of Sasabe. Over the years, the program has grown from what Epley’s husband once called her “hobby” to a full-time project because it encompasses so much more than just a trip to Mexico.
For five months prior to the trip, Epley and the students – who were selected based on an essay competition – met every other Tuesday night for two hours. They made posters to advertise their school supply drives, learned some Spanish, sampled Mexican food and wrote to pen-pals in Arizona, and they also discussed issues such as immigration, poverty, religion and culture. Right away, the students learned to work in an unfamiliar group, as they are all from different schools and backgrounds.
“They learn as much from each other as they do from their Mexican counterparts,” Epley said. “It’s a huge cultural exchange.”
Plus, said Valeria Waldner, mother of Oak View Elementary student Milena, the students learned public speaking skills from presenting their trip to multiple large groups, including the school board and several community groups, such as the Rotary Club and the Lions Club. In addition, each student spoke to every class in his or her school to kick off the week-long campaign to raise funds for school supplies for Sasabe students.
The students all admit they were nervous about speaking in front of big groups, but say it turned out all right. “It was a lot of fun,” said Kettie, from Park Brook Elementary School. “There was an envelope in each classroom for money, and if anyone had any donations they put them in the envelope, and every day I collected the money.”
The students’ combined goal was to raise $6,500, which went toward folders, notebooks, pencils, crayons, colored pencils, markers and backpacks for every student in Sasabe, as well as calculators for the fourth-through sixth-graders. In addition, it bought paper and ink for the school’s printer and sports equipment, such as soccer balls and basketballs. Additional donations from the public and community groups helped with plane tickets, meals and accommodations.
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