Service Learning Project
For many years, Hilton Head Preparatory School has incorporated a community service requirement into its upper school program, with students participating in a wide range of projects at the local, state, and even national levels. Recently, however, upper school students have had the opportunity to travel to Latin America and participate in an international service learning project. Ranging in group sizes as small as 10 and as large as 25, students have given up their spring break to travel to Nicaragua and work in local communities affected by poverty and recent earthquakes outside the capital city of Managua. This experience has had a global impact on students and project recipients alike since its inception during the 2012-2013 school year. Participant, alumna and current student at Wake Forest University, Whitaker Gannon ’15, described the way she realized first-hand the importance of building bridges across cultures and lives this way: "I have been thinking about myself, my college major, my career, my whole life; now I realize that it is more than that, that life really does exist like this and I now need to do something to make a difference." This opportunity to make a difference, expand horizons, increase cultural awareness, and witness first-hand how 80% of the world lives on a daily basis has become a pivotal learning experience for Hilton Head Prep students who choose to participate in the trip.
In the past, service learning has been defined as meaningful community engagement focused on enrichment, reflection, and integration. For years the international component of this particular trip has allowed Prep students to think outside the box, expand their cultural knowledge, and realize the negative impact of worldwide injustice and poverty, all while inspiring them to make positive changes for the future.
Upper school teachers Mr. Ramseur and Mrs. Battig Ramseur provide this opportunity alongside longtime partner organization Bridges to Community. Bridges is an international nonprofit group that sends over 800 volunteers to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic annually. Since current opportunities for service exist in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, Prep would like to gauge interest from parents and students alike for both locations in order to maximize a group size this school year. With the launch of the Diploma of Distinction program, service learning trips and experiences have acquired the additional benefit of falling under program requirements for students who wish to designate a "service field" focus to their personalized program. These fields could include but are not limited to: community involvement, social advocacy, civic psychology, public health, and nonprofit development. Dr. Bassett and Dr. Clinkman are excellent resources for how each candidate could best incorporate any of these focuses and trip projects into their final thesis for the program.