For Courtney Crook, a senior at Oak Park and River Forest High School, this past summer was more than a break from school. Crook spent part of her summer in Nicaragua craning her neck at, and even hiking up, that country’s mountains. She also dined on indigenous fare while immersing herself in various social service projects.
“This was my first time going abroad,” Crook said during an Aug. 25 regular District 200 school board meeting where the teenager presented her experiences to administrators and board members. “It was the most eye-opening, surreal, breathtaking experience in my life, both because of the people I met and [because] of the scenery, the mountains and everything we don’t have in Illinois.”
Crook was one of 15 incoming seniors and three faculty members at OPRF who traveled to three countries over the summer with the program Global Glimpse, which enables high school juniors to travel abroad for two-and-a-half weeks in order to expand their horizons and hone their leadership skills.
“About a year ago, OPRF was chosen as one of 10 top high schools in the Chicago area to initiate Global Glimpse [in Illinois],” said Bobbie Raymond, president of the OPRF Alumni Association. “This is a program that, hopefully, will gain momentum and, I think, brings a great deal of credit to both our teachers and our students.”
Global Glimpse representative Jameylin Lederhouse described the organization as a “global education leadership development program.” The program also has a presence in dozens of schools in New York and California. In addition to OPRF, the schools selected to participate in Global Glimpse’s first pool of Illinois schools included Evanston Township High School, Pritzker College Prep, and Hinsdale South High School.
Lederhouse said the OPRF students were nominated for the program by school officials. According to Global Glimpse’s website, students who haven’t been nominated can still apply by directly contacting a representative from the organization. Eligible students who aren’t from one of the organization’s partner schools can apply through its website.
Lederhouse noted that the Global Glimpse program engages students in three areas, including global education, leadership and service learning. Students learned indigenous farming techniques, taught English, and helped complete development projects (such as painting murals or creating playgrounds), among other activities.
OPRF senior Carson McDonald said his time teaching English in Ecuador made him aware of a resource divide.
“We taught English in a local school and on the days we shadowed students, I noticed that, while they may be teaching the same topics and curriculum as we do here at OPRF, we’ll learn very differently,” McDonald said, adding that at OPRF, students have many more opportunities to engage in individualized research and self-directed learning because of the technology and materials at their disposal.
“They don’t really have that in Ecuador,” he said.
“All of our Global Glimpsers from OPRF mentioned they were able to better empathize with people from cultures different from their own, and they have a better understanding of how to value multiple perspectives,” said Lederhouse, before noting that her goal is to recruit 20 OPRF students to travel abroad next summer.
“We want students to come away with amazing experiences but also for their worldview to be expanded and to relate well with others,” she said.