For one group of Southampton students, the annual winter break at the end of December will offer little rest.
After months of planning, the nearly two dozen middle and high school students will be traveling to the Dominican Republic, where they will spend the next week building a new vocational high school for underprivileged adolescents as part of a mission trip.
To highlight their efforts, group members—who will be working with an independent Christian charity organization named World Servants—will be featured in a roughly eight-minute documentary, filmed and edited by Lifetouch Media Productions, to be shown at schools nationwide as a motivator to inspire similar student-oriented trips.
“We live in a place that is generally so clean and beautiful and sheltered,” ninth-grader Cecelia Scheuer, 14, said last week. “We are all so well taken care of, and it is something we sometimes take for granted. Every once in a while, we need to have a reality check that the rest of the world is not like that.”
Cecelia is one of the 20 students who will be traveling to the small, poor Caribbean country that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti on Thursday, December 26. Once there, the students, many of whom are being accompanied by a parent, will spend most days on the job site from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. The vocational high school being constructed will create options for Dominican students as they move out of the elementary school grades.
The trip is being led by Southampton Intermediate School Assistant Principal Susan Wright, who has traveled with World Servants before, and helped build an elementary school in the Dominican Republic last year.
According to Donnie Koshiol of Lifetouch Media Productions, high school is not a viable option for many of the locals who must work to survive. The vocational school, he said, will give local students the opportunity to continue their education while being trained to enter specific fields, giving them a leg up in the workforce when they graduate.
Mr. Koshiol, who has traveled on upward of 20 of these mission trips in several Third World countries, will accompany the Southampton contingent in December to document their journey. Last week, he met the students for the first time to conduct the first round of on-camera interviews for the film.
He will be filming the students throughout the humanitarian trip, and interview them again after they return to New York on Wednesday, January 1.
“As inspiring as it is to see how these schools are affecting the kids down in the Dominican, it is just as empowering to see how it is affecting the volunteers we bring,” Mr. Koshiol said. “Volunteers across the board will say, ‘I got more out of this than I gave. I came to build a school, but the children have changed my life, and that is amazing.’”
To fund the trip, students have participated in several fundraising campaigns. In total, each student must raise $1,890, plus airfare, to participate in the trip. The Hampton Jitney is donating a bus to take the students to and from MacArthur Airport in Islip. The construction supplies are being funded through World Servants.
The next fundraiser is scheduled for Tuesday, November 26, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., at the Rumba Rum Bar on Canoe Place Road in Hampton Bays. Tickets are $50 each and include two glasses of wine donated by Palmer Vineyard and food from Rumba. Anyone interested in attending the event should contact Ms. Wright at the Southampton Intermediate School at (631) 591-4709.
Now, with less than two months remaining before they’re boarding a plane for the Dominican Republic, the Southampton students, who will also be bringing games and supplies for the local children, are gearing up for their journey. Last week, group members held a prep meeting where they went over final travel, passport and packing requirements.
“I think it will be an eye-opening experience,” said eighth-grader Maggie Purcell, 13, after the meeting.
While this is the first year the school district is hosting a trip like this to the Dominican Republic, Ms. Wright told students she hopes to make it an annual trip, noting that help is always needed.
“I just like helping people,” explained 16-year-old Justin Fisher. “Just being able to help kids and make their day better—that is a good feeling.”