Kristen Brock, Antioch University Environmental Education graduate was recently awarded a mini-grant from the Association for Middle-Level Education (AMLE) for her work with students at Colegio Americano de Guatemala.
Kristen’s project started as an AUNE practicum which she then developed into a service learning project to use in her professional career. Her focus was to bring her middle-school students into rural areas of Guatemala and expose them to the realities of poverty that surrounded their international and more affluent neighborhood. Her class took a service learning trip to Lagunas Cuaches, a small community nearby that faces various poverty-related problems. They got to spend time with the local students and witness the challenges that the community faced every day.
Before visiting the village, the students spent six months developing their service projects: researching the health and healthcare problems in the country, attending workshops at a school symposium, and self-organizing around issues of interest. They came up with projects ranging from collecting medical supplies to building community gardens to filming a documentary about Lagunas Cuaches. Additionally, the students, with the help of their teachers, reached out to organizations like the Peace Corps and USAID to connect with local organizations that could support their projects and better connect them with the local community.
After their visit, students reflected on their experiences preparing their projects and meeting the people in the community:
“I have always heard about poverty and people always comment on it. But, I didn’t take it seriously until I went on this trip. I saw things I never could have imagined. Talking to kids in Lagunas Cuaches really impacted me and made me change the way I think about these people and to take action.” – Jose G.
“Seeing the reality inspired me to change and now I understand what the poor go through everyday.” – Juan R.
“One of the best memories I have from the trip is when it was their “recess” and students went to buy fruit and food, and, even though for them, a few quetzales make all the difference, at least four girls decided to spend their money to buy me fruit. That was the moment when I realized how important the trip was to me and how happy they were to have us there with them.” – Claudia I.
“I learned that service is the only way we can help to change the world. Helping each other is the only solution we have for everyone to have what they need. If we don’t help when we are young, we will never know the reality of the world and how people live outside the city. After these two months, I now better understand the reality of the world. I understand how the girls my age live and what they have to go through. This experience of knowing the reality is like a treasure because I know very few people in Guatemala have the education I do.” – Emilia P.
All of the student groups presented the outcomes of their projects at a symposium for family, friends, and local community members. This allowed them to take ownership of the changes they had made and reflect on what they had learned from the process and the trip into Lagunas Cuaches.
Kristen presented the outcomes of her project in Nashville at the annual AMLE conference this past November.
“Antioch definitely inspired the project and I am grateful for the experience.” Kristen says. She plans to use the remainder of the mini-grant to fund additional trips to the village and attract new speakers for the students’ symposium and workshops.
AMLE mini-grants are available each year for 2 middle school educators who have taken leadership roles in developing collaborative projects both within and outside of schools. They are looking for educators who utilize collaboration between multiple stakeholder groups (i.e. teams, parents, community agencies, other schools, etc.) to enhance education for middle-school age students.
Each year, applications must be submitted electronically to AMLE no later than April 15. Submissions should be sent to [email protected].