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Nicaragua trip gives Frontier Regional, Smith Academy students new perspective

For nine days, the students helped to plan and construct an elementary school for a village near Grenada, Nicaragua,.

“The plan was to be totally immersed in the community and relate it to our lives,” said Joe Costello, a Frontier English teacher who led the trip.

For six nights, students stayed in a hostel and worked for five days, building two classrooms. They lived in a community where the hourly wage for contractors was $3.

For the final three days, students experienced the opposite lifestyle of the working class by staying at a resort hotel along the Pacific Ocean.

In that way, the trip was designed to increase student’s perspectives on economic disparities, Costello said.

Tim Hoar, a junior from South Deerfield, said the experience was eye-opening.

“You can be told what’s over there. But you can’t get a grasp until you’re there. It was overwhelming at some points,” Hoar said.

Costello had recently finished his master’s degree in secondary education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he met Smith Academy teacher Jeff Pluta. In 2009, Pluta founded the nonprofit Amped for Education Inc., whose mission is to expand education to impoverished parts of the world. The trip was organized by Amped.

Pluta took Smith Academy students on a similar trip to Nicaragua last year.

“I think this trip was probably one of the best things I’ve done,” said Dylan Talbot, a South Deerfield junior. “It’s helping children that don’t have it as good as I do and showing them we’re here for them.”

“It was a lot more than just building,” said Serina Cook, a junior from Sunderland.

“It was the whole experience, eating dinner out on the main strip and seeing little children trying to give you flowers and you having to turn them away.”

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