Spring Break Goes Global
While Upper School students in Beijing sat in a bustling restaurant sampling Peking duck, those in South Africa showcased their dramatic, musical, and written artwork made in collaboration with students in the Artworks for Youth program. Spread across the globe, these tech-savvy Upper Schoolers wrote poignant and thoughtful blog posts about their experiences on the Packer Travel Blog.
In an ongoing, multiyear partnership with the Artworks for Youth program, Upper School students travel to Joe Slovo Township near Port Elizabeth, South Africa to teach and mentor the students in the township. "The Service Learning Trip is an opportunity for students to learn about themselves through learning about others," said Overnight Travel Coordinator Tory Lacy. For two weeks, trip participants work in collaboration with "ArtWorks for Youth" in order to facilitate art-based activities.
"It's easy to use community service as a means to strengthen conscience, or give those who participated some sort of higher claim to morality than those who didn't, while forgetting its greater purpose. This selfish interpretation however, makes the experience finite, and therefore easily dismissed as a good deed of the past, or something that looks good on a résumé. The last thing we want our experience to be is finite. We want to make it a part of who we are as people, share it with others, and ensure that it will remain a permanent part of our lives."
— Group statement by Packer's "South Africa Crew 2016"
Mr. Lacy, who led the South Africa trip spoke to the trip's importance in forging connections between Packer and the students in the Joe Slovo Township, said: "This trip often gets labeled simply as 'community service,' but that description completely undersells the experience; our real focus is on forming meaningful relationships. Everything we do is aimed at really learning about others in order to foster the type of understanding and empathy that can only be achieved by going out into the world and making deep, long-lasting connections."
Read more from South Africa on their blog>>
Upper School students traveling to China developed their interest in the Chinese language, culture, and history, visiting the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Suzhou. They explored the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the 798 art zone in Beijing and the Bunds and Yu Garden in Shanghai. The group also visited with two school groups in Beijing, learning about the experiences of their Chinese peers.
Director of Global Outreach, Service, and Sustainability Tené Howard praised the experience's value: "While one can be a global citizen without necessarily traveling the world, having the opportunity to learn about a culture from direct personal experiences is incredibly important. The students were able to absorb first hand the sights, tastes and language of China and that experience connected them to one another and to China in a new way."
Read more from China on their blog>>
In addition to these two spring break trips, Middle School students had the opportunity to travel on language trips to Puerto Rico and Canada, while Upper School Jazz students traveled to New Orleans, the Chorus visited Italy, and the baseball and softball teams ventured south to Florida for spring training.