Submitted by Judy Salamone | Christian Brothers Academy
DEWITT — Christian Brothers Academy faculty member Vin Horan, along with students Lucy Person, Madison Doane, Grace O’Connor, Joe Akl, Chad Charette, and Hannah Aldridge spent winter break on a service immersion trip to St. Vincent Strambi, a co-educational Lasallian school in Jamaica with approximately 120 students in grades 7-12.
CBA students attended Mass each morning. Following Mass, they were immersed in classrooms, followed by afternoon cultural lectures and trips to nearby places. Hours were spent teaching and playing Frisbee with St. Vincent Strambi students, most of whom had never seen a Frisbee before. The CBA students and the older Strambi students were given several hours to participate in an open-ended discussion about their lives, what it’s like to be a teenager where they live, their families, their cultures, and their future plans. The students also took part in Jamaica Day, an all-day assembly of Jamaican music, history, food, and dancing for the entire school.
In addition, CBA students raised money for Strambi to make capital improvements that it otherwise would not have been able to pay for. In particular, enough money was raised to re-thatch the roof of the outside gazebo and to purchase seven solar panels to help offset the school’s electricity bills.
The students stayed at the Brothers’ residence at the school with Brother John McDonnel.
Students offered the following reflections:
“Strambi is such a joyful place. Loud classrooms with dedicated teachers crowd the small high school. Students brought fresh tart pineapples and real Jamaican bananas and true sugar cane and cakes for us to try. Ms. Sharon, the housekeeper, acted more like a mother offering hugs and sweet affirmations. Brother John, a warm and welcoming presence, helped us at every turn and did everything he could to provide us with everything we need — even though he was stretched thin across all of his school responsibilities. I hope that all of us who went can bring the energy we experienced back to Christian Brothers Academy of Syracuse.” — Grace O’Connor
“I was assigned the youngest class of students and was tasked with assisting the teacher and tutoring the students. In math, the class was learning binary adding and subtracting and I worked one-on-one with several students, helping them gain an understanding of the topic and work on problems. In English class I assisted Miss Bennett with the lesson and engaged in class activity using the vocabulary words introduced in the lesson. Our group was also able to spend some time with students our own age and participate in discussions comparing teenage life in Jamaica to teenage life in the U.S. We found many similarities and some differences. By the end of the time I spent with these students, I realized that the school and the students had great needs. I made the decision to donate the majority of my spending money to the school. I am glad to have had the opportunity to serve in Jamaica. While the purpose of the trip was to give of my time to the students, what they gave me in perspective was greater. I look forward to additional opportunities in the future to serve.” — Joe Akl