On Tuesday, November 26th, more than 40 ninth graders and green club members traveled to Chontales Academy in Juigalpa to perform community service. Students worked with elementary students at Chontales Academy planting 75 trees and plants to combat deforestation and organizing children’s games.
Chontales opened in 2018 and is the only English speaking school in the area. It is located about three hours by car from Managua. The founders, Dr. Erinn Magee and Dr. Silvio Sirias, are former teachers of ANS. Dr. Magee is also formerly the director of Balboa Academy in Panama, and Dr. Sirias is a teacher and an award-winning writer.
Our students were able to take advantage of this opportunity in many ways. Senior student Maria Alejandra Morales interviewed Drs. Magee and Sirias for her Capstone project. She is documenting the history of our school. Freshman student and artist Carolina Chen created a children’s biography of her hero which she drew and wrote. She presented a signed copy to the school. Also, Green Club members joined to learn more about this area, which for the majority of the students was their first time in Chontales. They learned how the area is affected by deforestation due to cattle ranching.
Joining students was Dr. Mancuso who had the opportunity to experience another area of Nicaragua and to interact with students. We also enjoyed getting to know Jose Manuel Arbizu from our security team who helped students with the planting. This service trip was organized by ninth grade team: Claudia Genet, Monika Cieslak, and Lisa Lippay.
Freshman Sofia Ibarra shared that she felt the best part of the trip “was the one-on-one with the kids! I especially liked helping them plant trees as some shared with me that they want to be farmers when they grow up.”
Sophomore Mia Stephens Hallesleven joined as part of the Green Club. She commented, “I was very impressed when I first saw the school. It was a nice environment full of life, especially coming from the children. The first student I met was Wilmer who has Down Syndrome. Everyone accepted him and that was so fulfilling! The first thing he did was to hug me. I would love to return since Dr. Sirias told us that the school wants to be as good as ANS and I know they can accomplish that and hope that we can be a part of it.”
Students were happy to be able to give back to their community, especially since Silvio Sirias has given ANS so much. He has been been collaborating with our English department, specifically our 9th grade ELA teacher Ms. Lippay, for over five years. He visits yearly with students with writing workshops. During last year’s visit, students who participated in these workshops expressed a desire to “pay it forward” to a community with whom Mr. Sirias has such a strong connection.
As we prepare for our Thanksgiving holiday, we give thanks for partnerships that we have with our community. Together we can build stronger communities.
Dr. Silvio Sirias interviewed by Maria Alejandra Dr. Silvio Sirias, Dr. Steve Mancuso, Dr. Erinn Magee
Carolina Chen reading her children’s book Jose Manuel Arbizu helping Graciela Coen Claudia Genet & Lisa Lippay, 9th Grade teachers