The Student News Site of East Grand Rapids High School

The East Vision

GalapaGO to Ecuador

Hallie Butterer, Staff Writer

Have you ever dreamed of snorkeling amongst the sea turtles, tropical fish, and exotic coral? Now your dreams can come true! In 2018, the high school is taking a group of students to explore the wonders of Ecuador, including the Andes Mountains and the Galápagos Islands, as well as help kids in need through service projects.

Grace Biermacher ‘17 was able to have this exact experience when she took part in the Galapagos trip in the summer of 2016.

“My favorite activity was definitely snorkeling in the Galápagos islands!” Biermacher said, “I also really enjoyed touring Quito with my host family and taking the teleferíco to the top of a mountain and being able to see the entire city.”

The trip is taking place June 19-28, 2018. Students on the trip take part in a variety of activities including volunteer work, hiking Cuicocha volcanic crater rim, visiting Native family Musicians, exploring, and snorkeling in the Galápagos Islands.

The students will also visit a multitude of beautiful and interesting places such as Quito, the Andean Highlands, the Otavalo market, the Charles Darwin Research Station, the Scalesia Forest, and more.

The trip will be reminiscent of the 2016 trip, where students like Biermacher lived with host families and took on plenty of rewarding volunteer work.

“We stayed with a host family and did community service projects with the kids at a school called Colegio Bequerel. A typical day was volunteering in the morning until lunch time and then we would go back to our families and have time for them to show us around the city! And we did projects such as planting trees and helping kids with cancer,” Biermacher said.

Señora Mercado-Blackport and Mrs. Billman will be the organizers and supervisors for this upcoming trip. The program fee is $4,350.00 plus a $150.00 enrollment fee.

Aidan Rosario ‘17, another student who previously took the trip, was one of many students that became extremely close with the host family.

“To this day I am in contact with our ‘mother’ and some of our ‘brothers.’ Being in the immersive environment that we found in Quito forced us to adapt quickly. We picked up Quechua slang, learned Ecuador’s greetings, and adjusted to their meal schedule,” Rosario said.

For Rosario, it was the bond he formed with his family and the time he spent with the locals that fostered the fondest memories.

“My favorite memories are from the days we spent with our families as they showed us the most exciting parts of their city: the mountains, restaurants, and parks,” Rosario said.

Former teacher and 2016 trip organizer, Jenny Frazier, says the trip was an experience of a lifetime for both her and her students.

“This is the reason we learn Spanish. We study for tests and do homework, but in the end we want to use Spanish to make positive contributions to our planet,” said Frazier.

“We did many things that influence us now and for the rest of our lives,” explained Frazier. “[The families] were very welcoming, and that taught us a lot about personal relationships.”

She talks about some of the activities they did.

“At a camp in Quito for children who have cancer, we played with the kids and let those kids enjoy a happy day full of laughter and fun. While we did that, their parents were able to attend classes about how to deal with [the cancer],” she said.

Frazier reminisces about the beautiful sights in the Galapagos.

“The Galapagos Islands, it seems to me, is like you’re on another planet. It’s so unique. A Darwin Finch landed six inches from my hand!” said Frazier. “I have traveled around the world, and I’ve never seen water that color blue.”

The company that sponsors the trip donates 5% of the money made to the children’s cancer project, and 5% to the Darwin Research Center.

Visiting Ecuador may be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and East provides this opportunity. For more information, there are informational meetings after school, and you can contact Socorro Mercado-Blackport, Mary Billman, or Jenny Frazier.

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