In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week 2020, we are running a series of stories highlighting some of the outstanding teachers that travel with Rustic Pathways. Teacher Appreciation ‘Week’ lasts all month here at Rustic! So in each week of May, we’ll be sharing a spotlight on how teachers go above and beyond for their students. Every teacher deserves recognition, especially during these trying times, and we are honored to tell just a few of their stories.
In week 1 we are kicking things off with a story from Felice Prindle, counselor at Bloomfield High School, who goes above and beyond to show her students travel is essential and learn what it means to be a global citizens. Even apart during these trying times, Felice and her class remain united and continue working towards their fundraising goals to make travel to Peru reality next year.
Here is her story that sum up what this week is truly about.
Teachers Who Go Above and Beyond: Felice Prindle
I choose to travel with my students on Rustic Programs to distant places so beautiful faces of people replace the dots on our map. Traveling with Rustic over the past four consecutive years has allowed my students to grow as global citizens: redefining their definition of neighbor. Along the journey, my students grow as empathetic learners and resolute servants for goodness and justice in the world.
Our international service projects through Rustic have been student-initiated and carefully curated to meet the learning outcomes of our school’s International Baccalaureate CAS (creativity, activity, service) Program. Whether it be planting mangrove seeds along the Cuban coast (2016), constructing an aqueduct in the Dominican Republic (2017), building a school for our homestay village in rural Peru (2018), or laying floors in the Bateyes (2019), our work in each community has been impactful and sustainable. Our students return from their experiences forever changed: open-minded, self-aware and with a unique perspective of shared humanity. Their hearts are activated with compassion.
Bloomfield High School is located in a small rural community in upstate New York. Our average graduating class is 70 students. Many of my students are the first in their family to travel on an airplane, most are the first to travel internationally. As a School Counselor, I believe that access to opportunity determines future success. Therefore I believe international travel, especially impact travel, should not be reserved for the privileged and elite. Travel is essential and should be available to all. Without fundraising and sponsorship, these projects would not be a reality for my students. Every year we commit to 8-10 months of fundraising in order to make our Rustic trips a reality. Over the past four years, we have raised over $76,000 so 92 students could experience the joy of service work internationally, and we do so through grassroots fundraisers like car washes, garage sales, school dances, tap takeovers, and craft shows. Additionally, we seek business and community sponsorship. Fundraising is so important to the success of our trips: it helps us work together for a common goal before we even board the airplane on departure day and the long hours of hard work gifts us a deep appreciation for our international experience.
Aside from monetary fundraising, product donation is equally as meaningful in preparation for our trips. In the past we have been sponsored by sunscreen companies, bug repellent companies, and outdoor equipment companies. Perhaps the most incredible of these sponsorships was Sawyer Products. On our most recent trip in December 2019/January 2020 we were fortunate to be sponsored by Sawyer Products (the ‘We Keep You Outdoors’ company!). Sawyer donated water filtration systems for us to bring to communities in the Dominican Republic. On January 1, 2020 we reached the remote Bateyes Amistades, Barrancón, and Punta Afuera. These communities currently have no access to clean water and to buy a jug of potable water costs $1 (50% of their daily salary). We gifted these forgotten and underserved communities with bucket water filtration systems. The students explained IN SPANISH how to assemble the filters and how to care for them. It was the ultimate application of project-based service learning. We all shared drinks from it and toasted the new year. Each filter, if maintained, can last indefinitely. What a way to spend the last and first day of the year!
Little did we know how different our world would look when on March 11, 2020 when we pitched our next international Rustic project to our Board of Education. Planning and fundraising for our trip to the Lake Titicaca region of Peru in the middle of a global pandemic is unchartered territory for sure! Through virtual meetings and group chats we have successfully enrolled our next group and are in the process of organizing socially-distanced fundraisers. As an educator in the time of Covid-19, I miss the hugs and high fives of my students but I am not letting the physical distance impede the depth of our relationships. I talk to my students everyday and our service work is continuing (albeit virtually) and I believe as a result of our collective experiences on Rustic projects around the globe, we’ve learned so much through our shared experiences and with immense reflection we put our unique perspective of love, life and purpose into action. I can’t help but think that all we have seen, shared, and felt together has prepared us in many ways for a moment of crisis such as this. Humanity is our greatest teacher and there is urgency to her lessons. Coronavirus and the disaster it brings depends on perspective: some may see this period as a crisis, some may see this period as a lesson. Who we are will surely be shown. What we value will surely be known. Where we go from here… well, that is up to us.
As an educator, I am grateful for the partnership with Rustic Pathways: their programs enhance my students’ learning in ways never attainable in the classroom. As the coordinator of the IB CAS Program, I feel the international trips I lead through Rustic Pathways are the most relevant and urgent of projects that I am privileged to coordinate: the projects challenge my students physically, socially, and emotionally. Ultimately, my students find themselves; and their purpose in serving the needs of others. I am grateful for the opportunity Rustic has and will provide for over 100 Bloomfield High School students since 2016.
Go. Serve. Love!
Counselor & IB CAS Coordinator
Bloomfield High School
Peru, 2018 & 2021
Dominican Republic, 2017 & 2019