In June, students and faculty of St. Martin’s Episcopal School will travel to the Spanish-speaking countries of Spain and Honduras to experience new cultures and explore the values of faith, scholarship, and service.
“St. Martin’s is a community that values diversity,” said Sophomore Gabby Killett. “I’ve always really believed in that because it’s important to recognize our differences and be able to experience a different culture.”
This summer, a group of students accompanied by Upper School Spanish Teacher Kiki Stelly will be traveling to northern Spain to fully engage in their foreign language studies as well as experience the enriching culture of the Spaniards. They plan to hit major cities like Madrid and Barcelona as well as some coastal cities like Pamplona, Bilbao, San Sebastián along the coast of northern Spain.
“I believe that going to Spain will further my education here at St. Martin’s and provide me with a strong basis for learning the Spanish language,” said Sophomore Cole Russell.
By using their language skills outside of the classroom, these students will more fully experience the culture and history of Spain and broaden their knowledge of the world, embracing the St. Martin’s motto’s value of scholarship.
“As far as scholarship goes, it’s a walk down history, specifically art history, lane,” Stelly said. “The opportunity for learning is immense in Spain.”
From visiting museums, to walking along streets in Spain older than New Orleans, to viewing paintings several hundreds of years old, to hearing the stories of the first people to land on the Iberian Peninsula, this group of students will get a new perspective on learning history by seeing it in person.
“I feel like a lot of kids in New Orleans are insulated,” Stelly said. “They don’t know a lot about the bigger world, so having the opportunity to take them to Spain, where they get to see a different culture and different people living their lives in a different way on a daily basis is very expansive for them. It expands their awareness. Going to Spain kind of opens their eyes to more than just what they’ve always known.”
By opening up to a foreign culture, the students experience new people and things that reflect the lessons they have learned as St. Martin’s students.
“This trip shows how we are open and other people are open to embracing diversity by allowing us to travel and have exchange students and stuff like that,” said Sophomore Pierce Gremillion.
The St. Martin’s students are not the only ones in the group headed to Spain. They will be traveling with two other schools from Montana with three teachers, 27 students, and nine other adults. Experiencing this trip with students from another state will give them not only insight into a different country, but a view of it through the eyes of another part of the U.S. Stelly believes this will be beneficial to the St. Martin’s students attending the trip.
“By opening yourself up to that experience, you become more global,” Stelly said. “You become a citizen of the world, not a just a citizen of New Orleans.”
Becoming a citizen of the world also involves learning about the religion of other countries. As one of the three pillars of the St. Martin’s motto, faith will be incorporated into the trip.
“In every city that we go to, we’re going to see evidence of the faith,” Stelly said. “Each one of them has cathedrals, and we will visit several of those. You will see that faith in Spain led to the construction of incredible monuments that are lasting and beautiful and inspirational.”
The final third of the St. Martin’s motto is service. The community hopes the members of this trip return with new ideals and the mindset to help others and continue to incorporate service into their lives.
“Seeing the way another country does its daily business can help inspire you to be helpful to people who are in different circumstances than your own,” Stelly said.
Another opportunity for the St. Martin’s community to practice service lies in the possibility of a mission trip to Honduras, according to Upper School French Teacher Cissy Rowley. Open to the families and students of St. Martin’s, this trip will be led by St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, which has been making this trip for years. With several students showing interest in going, the community may get a chance to serve others less fortunate than us this June.
“I think it will be a very eye-opening trip for them,” Rowley said. “Anytime you travel to another country, it’s always a very enriching experience, especially Honduras, which has a very unique culture. It is most likely a place that a lot of the students have not visited.”
The mission group will travel Tela, Honduras and visit the Holy Spirit Episcopal School, where José Contreras (’17) and Génova Bernardez (’17) attended school. During the trip, families and students would participate in many acts of service, including teaching Honduran children English, painting school buildings, and other volunteer work. Visiting a less fortunate community such as this one will hopefully give insight to the students of St. Martin’s and provide a new perspective on life outside of their own.
“A mission trip in Honduras means that you’re going to be going to many poor villages,” Contreras said. “You have to be very prepared for the things you’re going to see there because it will definitely change the way can you see your life. I think this is a great opportunity for all these kids to just appreciate what they have be- cause there are thousands of people out there that don’t really have anything. I think it will be an eye-opening experience, a way to become more humanitarian I guess.”
According to Rowley, the trip is not yet guaranteed for St. Martin’s students, but the foreign language department is working hard to make it happen. The trip is open to eighth- to 12th-graders, which Middle School Spanish Teacher Annabelle Allen hopes will pave the way for future middle school service trips.
“My real hope is to set up a service learning trip for middle school students, and this was kind of a door into that,” Allen said. “Since the school is founded on one of our key components, service, I think it would be valuable for students at St. Martin’s specifically to take a service trip abroad. I think for kids at this middle school age, it will have an enormous impact to see children of their own age or younger in totally different circumstances from theirs. It will really put into perspective just how fortunate and blessed they are. I love the idea of them doing service, whether it’s as big as building an orphanage or even just playing with kids. I think it would have a profound impact on these kids’ lives.”
Opening these types of trips up to middle school students will help prepare them even more for their 4 years of high school. It could teach them moral values that would not only compose them as well-rounded adolescents, but let them create an even more memorable high school experience filled with diversity, acceptance, and understanding.
“St. Martin’s is all about appreciation and understanding of each other and different cultures,” Killett said.