A group of St. Joseph’s Academy students and recent graduates spent June 10-14 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, helping run a summer camp at Colegio María Auxiliadora (CMA) in Santurce, an elementary school operated by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. The school, which serves an under-resourced community, hosts the summer camp for pre-K through sixth graders each year. SJA has partnered with CMA every summer since 2015.
The travelers were accompanied by technology staff members Krysia Sherburne Duplessis and Heather Bennet and Dean of Women Erika Angarita.
The students staffed two activity rooms for the campers. Some worked on arts and crafts projects with the campers and practiced English and Spanish. Others demonstrated a variety of ways to use technology for learning and fun. The young campers enjoyed using virtual reality headsets and exploring a variety of computer-based educational games and activities. They also took their pictures on a green screen to superimpose onto a background related to the camp theme, Disney.
Another group of SJA students worked to enhance the school’s computer lab, repair the 3D printer and assist the school staff with various technology projects. SJA donated an additional 15 refurbished laptops and updated and refreshed the computers currently used by the CMA staff. Another group of students set up a system to allow one of the Sisters to listen to mass in the chapel without leaving her room.
Away from CMA, the travelers enjoyed visiting the national forest El Yunque. They hiked to a swimming hole and visited a popular area of small local shops. On the last day of the journey, the group enjoyed a snorkeling trip off the island of Icacos.
“For some of our students, this was their first year working in Puerto Rico, and for others, it was their second or third,” Duplessis said. “Many of our students have built relationships with the school staff and many of the CMA summer campers who attend the camp year after year. Our students have truly woven sacred threads that connect them to the Sisters, staff and students at CMA. Forming those relationships and watching them grow despite differences in background, language and culture have been invaluable gifts to our students. Such hands-on service to the dear neighbor is an experience that will remain in their hearts for the rest of their lives.”
Bennett said the students’ hard work and upbeat attitudes were touching. “They exhibited exceptional problem-solving and communication skills and a selfless willingness to get things done with a smile on their faces,” she said. “They formed some incredible bonds with the students, faculty/staff members and the Sisters at the school.”
Madison Roy, a senior, said she had an amazing time working at this summer’s CMA camp. “I worked closely with other students from SJA to help repair the school’s computers and accomplish any technology-related goals the Sisters had set for us,” she said. “I enjoyed being able to assist both the students and the teachers at the school and make a lasting impact on its technology program.”
Senior Katherine Landry said she enjoyed her third trip to Puerto Rico. “I really enjoyed trying to practice my Spanish,” she said. “Bridging the language gap between me and the children is always really exciting, and even when they made fun of me for my broken Spanish, I still had fun. This was my third time visiting Puerto Rico for a technology trip, and every single time the trip becomes more meaningful to me.”
Mindy Brodhead Averitt