Hadley students set to work on Nicaraguan school during winter break

Thursday, February 16, 2017

HADLEY — Nine Hopkins Academy students and three Hadley Elementary students are set to spend their winter breaks in the Central American country of Nicaragua.

They will volunteer for the group La Esparanza Nicaragua, doing light renovation work on a local school. The students will fly from Boston to Houston to Managua, Nicaragua, close to the Granada region, which straddles Lago Nicaragua and is close to the Pacific Ocean.

Anne McKenzie, district superintendent, spoke briefly to the students at a meeting with parents Tuesday night in the home economics room at Hopkins Academy.

“The one thing that is guaranteed to bring you satisfaction and happiness is your willingness to use what you have, what you’re able to do, to the benefit of somebody else,” she said. “I’m just so proud of all of you. I’m so happy you’ve chosen to do this.”

The students have spent months fundraising for the first international trip in years for which the district has given the thumbs-up. (No district funds are being used for the trip, parents said.)

Two of the group are fifth-graders and one is in sixth grade, with the rest in the higher grades. Spanish teacher Ruthann Fitzgibbons is going along and will act as translator.

“We’re not just building a wall or fence,” she said. “We’re seeing how truly happy they are with so little.”

Kiera Ciolkos and Kiernan Wackerbarth, also 15, are two of the high school students making the trip.

Ciolkos said she is especially excited to see how other people live and their culture. Wackerbarth agreed, and added that “I’m ready for the heat over the snow.”

Ciolkos prefers the cold.

“It’s only going to be in the 80s,” Wackerbarth said.

“Oh, only?” Ciolkos said.

The students leave Feb. 21 and fly back early on March 3.

Jack Suntrup can be reached at jsuntrup@gazettenet.com.