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Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974

Horizon

Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974

Horizon

Border to Bayou: Learning Through Service

Graphic%3A+Quinn+Patwardhan+24.+
Graphic: Quinn Patwardhan ’24.

This summer, many students participated in week-long service trips to New Orleans and the Texas/Mexico border to make a meaningful difference in underserved communities. 

Each trip provided up to 25 hours toward Sidwell’s 60-hour community engagement requirement, as they addressed social or economic issues such as immigration, homelessness and neighborhood revitalization. 

The trip to the Texas/Mexico border, officially titled Examining the Refugee Experience, occurred from August 5th to 12th in McAllen, Texas, and included sixteen Sidwell students. 

Senior Viv Chaudhry, who attended this trip, enjoyed the opportunity to make a “real impact on people’s lives.” Her interest in the customs and culture of Spanish-speaking countries, prompted by her Latin American History class sophomore year, also inspired her to go.

Junior Fiona Peters, who also volunteered, wanted to go because she had frequently heard about the border’s “construction and controversy” in the news.

Chaudhry felt that their most significant projects were those with human connections. She believes that behind-the-scenes work (such as food packaging or meal prepping) holds value, but that it cannot match the sentiment of engaging with someone face-to-face. 

In particular, Chaudhry enjoyed working with children at the Arise Youth Group: “It felt so good to help them just be kids. They shouldn’t have to be burdened with stressful matters that most kids their age aren’t faced with.” 

The work of Sidwell students at the Center, providing kids with fun activities such as games and coloring books, “took a weight off of their parent’s shoulders.” For a few hours, parents could arrange the logistics of their trips or other plans instead of solely focusing on their children.

Both Chaudhry and Peters shared that their favorite memories are from their final day working with the kids when they held a celebration: “It was so great to see so many kids having a great time and to be able to interact with all of them,” Peters said.

In addition to working with the youth group, Sidwell students volunteered at several locations throughout the week. On the third day, they visited a respite center that serves as a rest stop for newly immigrated families. It offers free resources such as showers, food and medicine to individuals to support them during a part of their journey.

It felt so good to help them just be kids. They shouldn’t have to be burdened with stressful matters that most kids their age aren’t faced with.

— Viv Chaudhry

There, Chaudhry and junior Ari Gedan worked in a pharmacy, communicating with refugees and helping them receive proper treatment. Chaudhry explained that this professional experience significantly improved her Spanish because most incoming people did not speak English. Later on, they visited a food bank and a soup kitchen to package, organize and distribute meals.

Earlier in the summer, from June 12th to 18th, thirteen Sidwell students had the opportunity to also create a difference in the New Orleans community. Rather than face-to-face interactions, their service projects centered around important conservation work with affordable housing, environmental sustainability and the arts.

Senior Nico Sava attended because he was interested in gaining service hours in a fun and unique way. He was also previously “interested in the city of New Orleans.”

Sava explained that their group worked with local organizations to aid individuals who were either still recovering from Hurricane Katrina or needed assistance preparing for the upcoming hurricane season. 

Students also volunteered with several other organizations in the New Orleans community. One of which included the Lower Ninth Ward Center and the Green Project for sustainable engagement and development.

“There students learned about levies, planted fabric under cyprus beds, and planted trees,” said Dr. Patrice Copeland, who acted as a chaperone on both the Texas and New Orleans Trips. 

“Although, my favorite organization we partnered with was the Green Project” Dr. Copeland continued. 

The Green project recycles old paint into fresh, affordable paint colors for the underserved community. In their service, the students mixed, named and labeled their own paint colors. Then they were able to see locals by their creations in the Green Project store. 

“It is a great idea to help that I never imagined,” said Copeland, who greatly appreciated the experience. 

In addition to their volunteer work, the group had the opportunity to explore the vibrant city of New Orleans. “We saw local shops, restaurants, and infrastructure that was all unique and different in comparison to the DMV,” Sava remarked. 

 Students also viewed an Alligator farm on a special Swamp Tour. 

Unfortunately, the group experienced a few unexpected changes to their plans. Due primarily to a virus that spread throughout their housing, the trip ended two days early.

While it may not have been “smooth sailing” in the last couple of days, Sava believes that everyone in the group knew that their “hard work was for a good cause, and helped the community that [they] worked in proximity to.” 

He was glad to have had his classmates by his side and felt that they came together to overcome the unanticipated obstacles they faced.

Dr. Copeland echoled Sava’s sentiment saying, “It was good, hard work, but all the students really seemed to enjoy giving their time and were disappointed at our early return”. 

When asked if she would chaperone more service trips in the future Dr. Copeland said, “I would. I really value service learning and exploring different communities with the students. I hope we can continue to promote trips in the future.” 

Both summer service trips allowed students to push beyond their comfort zones, learn valuable skills, discover new cultures and create a lasting impact on communities.

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About the Contributors
Lily Palmerino '24, Features Editor
Lily Palmerino is currently a Features Editor for Horizon, a position she held in the 2021-2022, 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 school years. Prior to this, she worked as a Staff Writer for the newspaper.
Maya Jones '24, Features Editor
Maya Jones is currently a Features Editor for Horizon. Prior to this, she worked as a Staff Writer for the newspaper.
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