Senior Class Heads to Puerto Rico in MaySeniors and their grade advisors have been working creatively to envision a senior class trip for 2018 that comes as an expression of the community values that the high school has drawn into greater focus this year. Conversations with senior class parents, high school faculty, and even alumni have set the class on course to embark on a service-learning trip to Puerto Rico this May.

What is new about the senior trip and what is the same?
The conversations this year have re-evaluated the senior class trip from the ground up, reviewing the dozen past senior trips in Hartsbrook’s history, examining where we are now as a school, and envisioning how the trip can best serve our pedagogical goals and serve the world we are sending our soon-to-be graduates into.

We will be approaching the senior trip on three levels…

a head level through learning about the world around us and the issues at play
We have now placed the senior trip later in the school year to allow for more explicit preparation so that we can draw more from the encounter in a conscious way. We plan to share our learning experience with the community when we return.

a heart level through being present with our fellow human beings and offering our listening and understanding As in the past, we are working to create a trip that meets the needs of the class and presents the students with an opportunity to be moved and inspired in direct encounter with people and places beyond our routine experience.

a hands level through engaging in purposeful service work in that encounter
While past senior trips have each had their own service aspect, discussions this year on our theme of service learning together as a school community have resulted in a decision that the senior trip will have a main goal of hands-on service with and for our fellow human beings. We value both the possibilities for human encounter and for literally enacting “manos a la obra” — meaning “let’s get to work,” from the words “hands to the work.”

The trip will be a culmination of the service-learning work the seniors have done with the whole high school this year as well as their prior individual experiences and experiences together as a class, such as the junior trip to Triform. In future years, this threshold experience may transform yet further in concert with our growing service-learning orientation.

Where are we going? When we began discussing the trip in the fall, we were immediately drawn to working in Puerto Rico, which had been hit by Hurricane Maria in late September. At first, we were uncertain whether the territory would be ready to receive us by May, considering how slow the return of basic services was, but by the new year it looked increasingly possible. Fate smiled on us when we found out that our alum Elena Nietupski (‘13) and her partner own a guesthouse in the southwestern corner of Puerto Rico large enough to accommodate the whole class. This section of Puerto Rico has had power restored for months now, the water supply is safe, cell phone access is reliable, and stores and businesses are up and running, so we will be well-positioned to assist in the aftermath of the storm in a way which is safe for us and not burdensome to the local community.

What are we doing while we’re there? Current plans are that the seniors, together with their chaperones, the senior class advisors Rosemary McNaughton and Thomas Heineman, and Athletic Director Joey Dwork, will fly into the Aguadilla airport on May 7th and rent vans to make our way to the town of Puerto Real. Elena and her partner have many local connections and are helping arrange our service projects and other activities. They are looking into a sustainable housing project and working with farmers, among other projects that meet our criteria of service learning. We will be returning late May 17th or early May 18th.

What are we doing to prepare? There is still much that needs to be done, from concluding our service project plans to finalizing a packing list! Next week the seniors will begin in earnest their studies of Puerto Rico, examining its colonial history, modern culture in Puerto Rico and its diaspora, and the current situation with the debt crisis and hurricane recovery efforts. We will also begin to explore with them possible formats for sharing their learning afterward and educating our school community. We are excited to see what develops here, and will be inviting you to participate in the final result. Additionally, we are continuing our fundraising efforts in support of the fullest experience possible. Many thanks to those who have supported the trip already through our weekly Bueno y Sano burrito hot lunch program, and our fall Hillside Pizza fundraiser. The seniors will offer a Hillside pizza order for May 3rd and the possibility to hire seniors as they fundraise for their individual contributions. Thank you for your support in this and in so many areas.

We are looking forward to an exciting trip with the Class of 2018 and to sharing more with you upon our return.

Thomas Heineman and Rosemary McNaughton
Senior Class Advisors