This past May 29 – June 6, students and teachers from De La Salle High School in New Orleans, Louisiana trekked across the Gulf of Mexico to Nicaragua for a long-awaited international learning experience.

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 DLSHS students and teachers in Los Campos, Nicaragua.

According to De La Salle campus minister Tony Behan, “We’d been planning this trip for about two years as a response to the global and service component to our school’s mission statement.”

The trip was organized by the school, EF Tours, and ME to WE, a social enterprise that provides products and services to create sustainable global change, including sponsoring leadership training and volunteer trips to developing countries around the world.

Led by Behan and English teacher Gabrielle Bethancourt, the De La Salle contingent spent much of its trip in the small town of Los Campos, located south of the capital city of Managua.

“As soon as we landed in Nicaragua,” remembered student Angela Bruchis, “I automatically felt very welcomed and met some truly amazing people.”

While in Los Campos, the group worked with the locals to help to dig the foundation for a school classroom.  Student Brandon Blackwell observed, “Even though we didn’t speak the same verbal language, the language of hard work and determination was spoken by all.  It showed in the work done together.”

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          Students at work on the classroom foundation.

Behan noted that many of the young people in that area are not even able to go to school because of the time and distances involved, a problem common in a nation where modern roads and transportation outside of its urban centers are scarce.

The students learned of other daily realities in the impoverished area, an experience that student Jackie Johnson called, “eye-opening and incredible.”  For its residents, this includes pineapple farming, coffee farming, and an empowerment program where women make simple jewelry to sell in order to give them financial independence.

In addition to their time in Los Campos, the students and teachers were able to experience other parts of Nicaragua, including a boat ride in Lake Grenada, a hike around a volcano, and a ziplining excursion.

By trip’s end, it had become obvious that an impact had been made, certainly for the people of Los Campos, but especially for the young travelers from De La Salle.  Just-graduated student Fernando Rivera wrote, “Life changing…I will never forget the names, faces, and places I became familiar with during our short time in Los Campos. Going off to college, I am inspired to continue studying abroad and even pursuing a Fulbright Scholarship.”

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    Fresh pineapple made for a refreshing break.

The Lasallian commitment to education for faith, community, and service finds its local expression in the vision and purpose of its schools and their institutional traditions.  Part of De La Salle High School’s mission statement reads, “…preparing young people for college, career, and life in a global community…”  For one group of students returning from Nicaragua, words that perhaps were once only words have now taken on a very personal and lasting meaning.

Photos courtesy Tony Behan and De La Salle High School.