I spent my spring break on a service trip in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, building a playground for underprivileged students. The trip was through an organization called School the World (STW), whose mission is to provide equal opportunities for education for students living in poverty in Guatemala through initiatives such as learning through play and gender equality. 

By promoting these ideals, STW elevates communities like the one I visited, Chitucur II, and cultivates prosperity. While other organizations like STW may do good, I chose this service trip because I knew that STW is dedicated to helping students and families for a long period of time, and ensuring their prosperity.

I was wary about spending a week in Guatemala because of my minimal Spanish skills and because I would be away from my family in a foreign place, but that was balanced by wanting to be part of a project that really changed the lives of the people it helped. 

I’m aware of the common high-schooler who goes on a “service” trip that is really just a vacation where they experience a different way of life and then use that experience in their college essays. 

My goal wasn’t self-improvement or beefing up my college applications. I wanted to serve others and give my time to help people in need, and I hoped that this trip would not just be a vacation for me. Luckily, STW was just what I wanted. 

STW has an amazing team of employees living in Guatemala, some of whom I was lucky enough to meet, who work with local governments and parents to make sure education endures. In each community a five-year plan is implemented, which includes mandatory parent meetings and payments from the parents, matched by STW, toward stocking the school library. Nothing is overlooked. STW is truly a special organization, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. 

My week in Guatemala is one I’ll never forget. Helping a community grow and prosper in future generations is priceless.

Olivia Stern

Oak Park

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