Trip to Dominican Republic by Lycoming College students sparks passion to serve

Trip to Dominican Republic by Lycoming College students sparks passion to serve

Brandan Gracia plays with one of the school's students.

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Playgrounds and learning labs in the Dominican Republic benefitted from the attention of nearly a dozen Lycoming College students during a spring break trip from March 5 to 12. The students are members of the Lycoming chapter of Advancing Communities by Educating and Serving, which organizes service trips to the Dominican Republic to learn more about its culture and bolster its economy.

During the first part of their trip, students repaired a playground, created an English Language Learning Lab, and delivered 75 food bags to needy families in the Mendoza Community of Santo Domingo. They then travelled to Las Terrenas and at the request of community leaders, built a new pre-school playground out of tires.

In both locations, education students visited local public and private schools and worked with teachers in classrooms. Education professors Rachel Hickoff-Cresko, Ed.D., and Amy Rogers, Ph.D., laid the groundwork for future Education Department trips.

“I did not expect the trip to completely change my life for the better, but playing with the children on the playground and working with them in the classroom made me realize that these children live everyday with full hearts despite the economic challenges they face,” said senior Emily Mullenholz. The bond with the children was equally strong for sophomore Julia Suchanek: “My favorite part about the trip was being able to interact with the kids and see the joy in their faces when we played with them once the park was finally finished.”

Through the various service projects, students gained an appreciation for the challenges with lifting countries struggling with poverty onto a more equal footing in the global economy.

“Trips like this ignite our students’ curiosity about the world and show them that they can play a role in alleviating poverty and inequality whether it be in the Dominican Republic, another developing country, or in their own backyard,” said Caroline Payne, Ph.D., professor of political science at Lycoming College who organized the trip. Jonathan Williamson, Ph.D., chair of the Political Science Department, helped organize the trip and chaperone the students.

Julia Suchanek enjoys her time with students on the playground.

Julia Suchanek enjoys her time with students in the new playground.

“The students also realize that some complex problems with seemingly insurmountable challenges can be resolved with the right passion and preparation,” Payne said.

The students who participated included:
Catherine Burger, a sophomore mathematics major with secondary education certification, of Royersford, Pa.
Alyssa Godshall, a sophomore psychology major, of Hellertown, Pa.
Brandan Gracia, a freshman biology major, of Houston, Texas.
Shayna Iacoviello, a junior biology major, of Old Bridge, N.J.
Devon Mendler, a sophomore whose major is undeclared, of Williamsport, Pa.
Olivia Mendler, a junior criminal justice major, of Williamsport, Pa.
Adam Miller, a senior economics major, of Landenberg, Pa.
Emily Mullenholz, senior psychology major with elementary education certification, of Olney, Md.
Murray Shackelford, a junior history major, of Capitol Heights, Md.
Ashley Stover, a sophomore marketing major, of Bel Air, Md.
Julia Suchanek, a sophomore history major, of Waynesboro, Pa.

Anne Landon, assistant director and internship coordinator for the college’s Institute for Management Studies, also participated in the trip.

The Lycoming Chapter works with ACES North America, which is headquartered in Williamsport, and the Foundation Mahatma Gandhi, which is headquartered in Las Terrenas, to identify and participate on service projects.