DeLaSalle students work with Saint Paul’s students.
A summer 2011 immersion experience at twin schools in Kenya provided a life-changing journey for 11 students from DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, MN. They spent three-and-a-half weeks at Saint Paul’s Secondary School in Marsabit and about two weeks at Rongai Agricultural and Technical Secondary School in Rongai. They also visited the novitiate in Nairobi, went on safari, visited an orphanage, and traveled to villages with a local parish priest.
“I took away a new understanding of what it means to be from a different culture and a new knowledge of the similarity of people from all kinds of life,” said student James Stroncek.
Lasallians on different continents are linked by those similarities, like the common prayers they say. “It’s this awareness that we’re not worlds and worlds apart. There is such a unity there,” said Peg Hodapp, Vice President for Lasallian Mission.
The students quickly felt connected to Saint Paul’s students through shared experiences, including participating in the school’s yearly Parents’ Day. The Americans also helped in English, math, and science classes along with observing class work. The students from both schools teamed up to repaint a fading sign at Saint Paul’s gateway. “It was about getting to know the students there and really forming relationships with them,” said Hodapp.
Hearing the students’ stories and seeing their everyday lives impacted DeLaSalle students like Annie Borman. “I learned so much on my trip,” she said. “I am definitely more appreciative for everything I have and what my parents provide for me. I am so blessed.”
While at Rongai, DeLaSalle students spent most of their time in the classrooms. They also completed service projects, played sports, and helped with feeding and cleaning pigs.
The trip gave student Samantha Schrepfer a new outlook on the importance of education. “The students we met were so gracious and kind hearted, and it amazed me that even though some of them worked super hard to graduate, they may not be able to further their education because of the lack of universities and resources in Kenya,” she said.
The students returned to DeLaSalle to share their experience with their classmates. It’s an experience Hodapp thinks is crucial for other Lasallians to have to bond with students at twin schools. She thinks visits are so important that she even offers her help to groups that want to organize trips. “I think that connection and relationship is just really key to maintaining the Lasallian Mission and keeping it alive,” she said.