Saturday, August 1, 2015

Travel scholarship winners anxious for Nicaragua trip

Neither Julia Quast nor Kate Parsons has been on an overseas humanitarian trip before.
But when they heard last year about a scholarship being offered especially for this, the two Fort High students knew they had to apply.

“I heard it over the announcements so I figured I may as well sign up and see what happens,” recalled Quast.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity.”
“I really wanted to do it and asked my parents, but they said ‘no,’” noted Parsons, though admitting she applied anyway, knowing that if she won the scholarship, they’d have to let her go.
Both girls submitted an essay describing their volunteer work, why they deserved to go on this trip, and how they plan to share their experiences when they return.
And while the original intention was to select one recipient, the committee decided to award the scholarship to both Grade 11 students.
“This was the first year for the scholarship and several applications were received,” said Heather Campbell, director of education for the Rainy River District School Board.
She noted all the essays were scored without the students’ names on them.
“Both students wrote outstanding essays demonstrating their commitment to their school and to the entire student body in promoting inclusion, respect, and compassion for others,” Campbell stressed.
“As both students’ applications were of such a high calibre, both were awarded the funding.”
The pair were pleased to learn they’d be going on the trip with each other.
“You have that partner for fundraising and presenting our experiences afterwards,” reasoned Quest.
She said they were able to select the destination of their trip and decided on heading to Nicaragua on Aug. 8-18.
“We didn’t have a lot of time to raise the money,” explained Parsons. “It’s a shorter trip and therefore cheaper.
“It’s only 10 days as a opposed to the typical 20.”
“We were looking at other places but Nicaragua seemed to be the safest place to go when it came to crime rates,” added Quast.
While each student was awarded $1,000 through the FFHS Humanitarian Trip Scholarship, which was initiated by former Fort High student Dexter Fichuk, additional fundraising is required to pay for the “Me to We” (Free the Children) trip.
“Right away we started thinking of fundraisers,” said Parsons, noting they’ve already held a community garage sale and a dodgeball tournament at the school, as well as hat days.
They also were able to join in on the profit for the spring formal, receiving $2 from every $5 ticket.
Meanwhile, St. Paul Lutheran Church in International Falls hosted a breakfast Sunday, with proceeds going towards the pair, while the Church of the Lutheran Hour here will be holding a luncheon this Sunday.
“We’ve raised about half,” said Quast, noting the trip costs about $3,600 each.
“The scholarship cut off a fairly big chunk but we still have some work to do,” she conceded.
Several more fundraising events are planned, such as an open mic night June 27 at 7 p.m. at From the Grind Up, activities during Canada Day celebrations, and setting up a booth of baking during “Market Thursdays” on Scott Street.
They also have a donated desk and chair they’re raffling off for $2 a ticket, as well as bracelets to sell.
“We’re just trying to keep things fun so that people want to help out,” reasoned Parsons.
“So it’s more fun for us and the community, and it’s making a difference.”
The pair hope everyone will continue to support their efforts as they’re very excited to participate in this adventure to Nicaragua.
The purpose of the trip is to travel to a developing country to see the importance of education, clean water, alternative income, and agricultural projects.
“We’ll be doing a lot of humanitarian work,” Quast said. “We’ll be helping to build a school.
“We get to visit the village, meet the children and families, and we get to do what the women have to do.”
“There’s a day where we live the lives of the women in the village,” echoed Parsons.
“We will also visit a coffee plantation to see how they make their income.
“I’m just really excited to get to interact with the children and to see how the culture differs from ours,” she enthused.
“See how different they live their lives; the adversity they face versus the petty adversity we think we deal with here.”
“I’m excited to be helping to build a school so that the kids can get an education just like I can,” said Quast.
“I think it’s going to be a real eye-opener.
“And I’m excited to come back and tell people about it, and hopefully open their eyes to really appreciate what we have here,” she added.
Fichuk, who participated in trips to Ecuador and Kenya while attending Fort High, wanted the recipient of the scholarship to do a presentation about their experiences to local schools and the community upon their return.
“My hope is that every year, a student will come back from the trip and the community will grow and benefit from their experiences,” he reasoned.
Quast said the presentation also will show people in the community what they contributed to.
“Fort Frances was very helpful getting us there to do the volunteer work,” she remarked, noting people have been very generous.
“I don’t know what I would do without the support of friends and family and members of the community,” she stressed.
“We have so much gratitude for everyone who has already helped us because it’s made a huge difference,” agreed Parsons.
“We are very grateful for everything.”
The pair also extended their thanks to Fichuk for setting up the scholarship.
“He has been a huge influence, too,” Quast said. “He’s the reason I have been introduced to all of this.
“He did so much at the school and I just think it’s awesome.”
“Hopefully, next year we get to make as big a difference as he did,” noted Parsons.
“He’s really inspiring.”
Both teens also expect to continue with their volunteer work and fundraising in the future, especially next year as part of the school’s student council.
“It’s a lot of fun getting involved and planning things,” Parsons said. “And now we have this experience with fundraisers.”
“We’re still young so who knows what this will start for us?” added Quast, noting she plans to stay back a year after graduation to work and take extra courses.
“That year I can save up and go on the trip to Kenya,” she said. “That’s where I really want to go.”
“I don’t know where I’m going to go, but hopefully I can bring the ‘Me to We’ philosophy wherever I go,” said Parsons.

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