H-M-S Spanish students going to Costa Rica

Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn High School sophomore Aaron Fennell, junior Desyre Martinez, senior Brooklynn Heneman and sophomore Jordan Diaz look over different pasta items they recently sold to raise money for their trip to Costa Rica next summer.

HARTLEY—Traveling to another country is not cheap, which is why four students from Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn High School are raising money for their trip to Costa Rica the Spanish department is leading in July.

Senior Brooklynn Heneman, junior Desyre Martinez and sophomores Aaron Fennell and Jordan Diaz are selling T-shirts with the quote: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

Spanish teacher Linda Akwa said she had heard that quote a few years ago and tries to incorporate its message to her students at the start of every academic year.

“Instead of putting a Spanish thing on the T-shirts, which kids may or may not understand, we’re going to make T-shirts with that saying on it,” she said.

The students held a separate fundraiser for the trip in November, when they sold packets of pasta from the Fun Pasta Fundraising company. Akwa said she did not yet know how much money they raised from selling the pasta.

Akwa started teaching at the high school in 1997 but became a full-time Spanish teacher six years ago.

She started leading trips to Spanish-speaking countries every two years in 2016. The first trip she led was to the Dominican Republican while the 2018 excursion was to Costa Rica.

“I took the same trip with a different bunch of kids in 2018, so I’m pretty familiar with what will be going on and what we’ll be doing,” she said.

The group will be taking an eight-day trip to Alajuela, Costa Rica, which is the second-largest city in the country. Instead of staying in a hotel, the students will be lodging with native families.

“I tell kids, ‘I will not take you just to sit in the hotel. You’re going to get your most knowledge about the culture and stuff by staying with families,’” Akwa said.

The school uses the education travel agency, Interact Travel, for its trips abroad.

During their weeklong stay in Costa Rica, Akwa and her students will visit several attractions around Alajuela, including La Paz Waterfall Garden, Manuel Antonio National Park and Arenal Volcano National Park. They also will tour a processing plant of the coffee company Café Britt.

“They have this really neat tour that goes through and talks about the history and the whole process of how you go from coffee beans to the actual coffee you drink,” Akwa said.

The trip to Costa Rica will not solely consist of sightseeing and tourism; there also will be a humanitarian component. Akwa and her students helped paint a house for a family in 2018.

“There was a woman with a couple of young kids. She was moving back in with her parents, and they were remodeling the house so it would be more appropriate for her kids and her parents,” she said.

One of the main lessons Akwa wants her students to take away from trips abroad is that not everybody around the world lives with the same amount of wealth as people in the United States.

“I want them to understand there are other cultures and other ways of life,” she said.

The opportunity to experience another culture is what the four students said they are looking forward to.

“It will be a different experience from the U.S.,” Diaz said. “Here, we have different laws and rights than other places.”

Although Akwa only recently started leading trips to Spanish-speaking countries, she said Spanish teachers before her at the high school had done so for several years.

“It’s been done a long time,” she said.

“That was one of the things I said when I took the job is it’s one of the things I want to keep doing because that’s a powerful experience.”