You have the time and you have the money to go on a service learning trip. Instead of spending your money on the new gaming console, spend your money on something worthwhile. This opportunity led me to dream about traveling the world one day.
I promise you that when you go on the trip you will roll out of bed and find yourself in complete disbelief. Wake up at sunrise to fresh misty air. Three enormous volcanoes surrendered the town. With so many amazing sites to see. Walking up to the cross to see the amazing view of the whole town. Not to mention the amazing architecture; it’s not just any architecture, it is Spanish architecture. The beautiful vibrant building colors. Feel like you are in Spain. You not only are working and learning but you are doing it in a place that will amaze you.
The group that went was 15 students part of my 8th-grade class visiting a different culture and experiencing new things. It cost about $2,000, but over 7 months we had multiple fundraisers and opportunities to bring the money down. We partnered with a specific organization that works with coffee farmers (De La Gente Coffee). This trip was a long-awaited part of my school from the beginning. Lucky for you don’t have to wait 9 years.
Now when I say service learning you may think “ugh I have to do volunteer work”. When I say I had so much fun doing our “service” I mean it. It was a lot of teamwork and trying everything. We built water retention for the farmers in the mountains. We learned how to cut wire, mix concrete, perfectly level, and place the concrete. This is a life skill that could most definitely help us in the future. This skill can be used in someone’s future job or hobby they may want to do. This skill is something that is not knowingly can and will be used in your life from day to day. Whether that be writing or building legos, it will always stay with you. There were people walking away saying they wanted to do that when they were older. We had 2 days of 2-hour “service” out of 7 days. I say this because the service didn’t feel like a service at all. Every other day we spent as a group getting to know different parts of the town and some of the farmers. To learn about culture every night we had dinner at a farmer’s house. At these dinners, we had the chance to get to know the family and try new foods.
One considerable part of this trip is we don’t bring our phones. This is such a great thing about our trip. When we were at dinner we had meaningful and interesting conversations. Going to hang out in each other’s rooms created such a bonding moment. This trip will help you become more independent. As we went on the trip without our parents and without devices we became way more independent. Although if you do this trip definitely bring your phones. I would highly suggest going with a large group. Even the people you don’t get along with I promise you will be best friends by the end of the trip. Here, is the place when you say “I just wanna stay home and sleep” but that is no excuse to sit at home and do nothing. Get up and do something exciting. As a group, we learned how to pick coffee beans, crush the beans, allow them to sit for weeks, and eventually roast them to use. This might be a skill we never use but now we can say I know how to go through the coffee-making process.
Every day, like the tourists we are, we went shopping. With different currencies we had a blast spending our hearts away. Along with spending our money and having fun doing it. If you love shopping and spending your money this trip is for you. As a group, we spent 2 hours going up their beautiful main street with their arch that you can see a volcano through. Every day before going out and having fun we went to one of the small corner stores to give you a little perspective of how the culture is similar. Safe to say we walked away with so many memories and not to mention the bags
Learning about Guatemala allowed us to further our intelligence on culture. Although we were a school about learning about the culture and using our biliteracy to communicate, we learned so so so much. All of us were from a Hispanic background and most of us are Mexican. When we officially arrive you tend to notice yourself comparing it to where you live or where you find it is most similar. As soon as we began driving to our hotel you could hear us saying “Wow it is really similar to Mexico. But Mexico doesn’t have big SUVs.” This was an opportunity for us to expand what we know.
As a whole group, we became closer; we had deep meaningful conversations that gave us a group a feeling of support. This may play a role in why we worked so well together as a team and had fun doing it. To this day we still are very close friends that will forever share those memories.
Just imagine that our service was only 2 hours for 2 days. We were able to do so much more learning, buying, and eating. We had the opportunity to explore the different restaurants the small town had to offer. Although you may think wow you got to do all that. Well, one of the big parts that everyone enjoyed was going to the Mayan ruins and the deepest lake in all of the Americas (Lake Atitlan). Learning about the Mayan ruins that year and then being able to go visit them brought a whole new perspective on the world we live in compared to their world. Lake Atitlan was an amazing and eye-opening experience. The lake was beautiful with vibrant color and warmth with lots of natural beauty. We got to swim in the lake and that made us all feel very grateful. This was so eye-opening because when we got there the farmers first said that they respect and make sure their nature stays beautiful and clean; just like they said it was well preserved.
As you can imagine, leaving our slow small little town was so sad to go back to the big busy city. As the days began closing in we all tried to get the most out of it. As part of the last day, we spent time with the farmers’ wives and they taught us Guatemala’s national dish Pepian. This taught us important life skills. We learned how to properly prepare their vegetables and their version of tortillas.
Overall a service learning trip will not only help you learn but also leave you with many new memories and experiences. This is why a service learning trip is the best decision someone can make with extra money.
St. Laurence High School – DMSF Class of 2026