Spanish Cultural Immersion and Service Trip Builds Community

34 eighth and ninth graders traveled to Costa Rica this Spring Break for a Spanish immersion and community service trip, an experience that Allen-Stevenson students and faculty have shared each spring for the past 7 years.
Our young travelers returned once again to La Carpio, the town that Allen-Stevenson boys have visited since their inaugural trip in 2013. They were greeted by Gail Nystrom, founder of the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation, who explained the circumstances of those who fled Nicaragua to live in La Carpio - many were immigrants fleeing civil war, natural disaster and extreme poverty - and led a meaningful discussion on the cycle of poverty.
 
Following this orientation, the boys got straight to work building up the local community. Through collaborative teamwork, our upper school students mixed and laid cement to finish the house of an elderly woman, painted and cleaned a Montessori school, aided local teachers by teaching lessons and reading to the students, and organized a donation afternoon where children and families picked out shoes, clothes, and toiletries donated by the Allen-Stevenson group.
 
The boys lived with host families and, when they were not hard at work, got a taste of the local culture by exploring local cuisine, including arroz, frijoles, patacones, maduros, carne de res, pollo, verduras, and more. They explored La Carpio in small groups, absorbing the daily lives of the community. Many observed that the children frequently walked around alone and without shoes. One student said, “It makes me grateful for what I have,” prompting a conversation on the aspects of their lives that they take for granted.
 
An email from Trip Leader Samara Spielberg, to parents reads, “We strolled our way through a beautiful art exhibit that had been set up in the town square. When I asked what they noticed, one boy pointed out that Costa Rica must have different perceptions of beauty because all of the statues were of full-figured women…Though two vastly different countries, the boys are starting to notice both the differences and the similarities we share with Costa Rica.”
 
At the end of their trip, Gail Nystrom met again with the boys and posed the question, “How many of you think you made a difference?” They all raised their hands. “When you come to see us, it provides a light for the people of la Carpio… That’s what you do for them. You make a huge difference in their lives… Think about a rock in the lake that continues to create the ripples...it’s like helping others. Continue being the light.”
 
You can see pictures from this trip on Instagram by following @asincostarica.
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Allen-Stevenson’s distinctive “enlightened traditional” approach educates boys to become scholars and gentlemen.