The Compass School junior class recently returned from the annual Global Connections Expedition, an international immersion experience for the whole 11th grade class. After traveling to Mexico the past three years, this year's trip involved a fourteen-day service-learning project in Ecuador-a land of majestic landscapes with pointed hills, lush green farmland, and high cheek boned, wonderful people with the biggest hearts.
Students experienced connections with a wide range of perspectives beyond their borders as they completed farm work, which included a 4 a.m. milking of Brown Swiss Cows, sheering llamas, haying, and making yogurt and cheese as well as numerous building projects within a variety of communities.
Living and working with indigenous families challenged each 11th grader to use their Spanish speaking skills and participate directly in day-to-day chores which ranged from quinoa and potato harvesting to preparing meals over an open fire. And the group learned from locals about the economic and environmental issues caused by globalization that impact lives in South America.
As the students adjust to traditional Vermont life, they cannot help but think how our amazing Ecuadorian adventure has forever changed their lives. Everyday at school students reminisce about making adobe tiles with Vicente, one of the rural village elders, bonding with elementary-aged children over art projects, tunneling through Ecuador's cavernous water systems guided by headlamp, and how the many other learning experiences have changed their lives.
While the Global Connections Program is built around international service and connections, much of its power involves how it impacts Compass students.
As Ariel Temple wrote that after this trip, "Both physically and mentally I am more fit and sound than I ever have been."
Aliana Bloch detailed similar feelings in her final reflection, "I had a lot of successes personally. I feel like I've needed to get out of my routine at home and school. Having an experience like this has opened my eyes to a lot of things I think I've been trying to see. I'm hoping that when I return home, I will still be able to hold on to this point of view
"I've gained here because I feel healthier and more balanced than I have ever before. I've also really appreciated having the leadership of Mathias and Nicole-I feel like meeting both of them has helped me understand a little bit more about how I want to live my life."
The Compass junior class has many stories to tell and many beautiful photos that seek to capture the essence of what was experienced. They are eager to share their stories and learning with the greater public.
They plan to begin presenting tales of our journey towards the end of March and welcome requests from schools or civic organizations who are interested in learning more about this valuable program to increase global understanding.