When Spring Hill Came Marchin’ In
There are many benefits to students when they are exposed to cultural diversity in the school environment – it fosters a sense of empathy and awareness and promotes student growth and reflection. Here at Volcanes, our kids are constantly exposed to different cultures, different ways of thinking and being because of the constant visits from foreign volunteers and our partnership with different schools and people in the United States and Canada.
Without a doubt, our strongest and most important partnership is with the Spring Hill School from Petaluma, California. We are literally sister schools. Mrs. Megan Shelton, the lead teacher for Spring Hill, was instrumental in professionalizing our English classes here at Volcanes when she was our English Director. To this day, her influence is felt across our program and in the community (a couple from here even named their daughter after her) and she continues to be an important part of what we do here.
In the middle of December, 17 students and five teachers/adults flew in to Puerto Vallarta to pay our school a visit. They brought close to 50 suitcases of donations sent from the Spring Hill community – clothes, school material, gifts for our students. When we went to pick them up at the airport it looked like an airplane had dropped all of its cargo – passengers and suitcases – there on the sidewalk.
The students stayed here for an entire week and organized many fun learning activities for our students. They interacted and competed with each other and celebrated the Christmas holidays together. The two most exciting events were our Christmas parties and our annual soccer match.
Dina Heese, who sets the tone to any party, brought a fake-snow machine and our Christmas parties looked and felt different this year. Here in Puerto Vallarta there is a disconnect between Christmas and the weather. Christmas is for snow and reindeer and Santa sneaking down the chimney. It’s hard to get into that spirit when the sun is shining bright and people are out and about in shorts and tank-tops because it feels like a hot summer day. Dina’s snow machine changed all that. The kids were running around and squealing with delight as the “snow” was falling on them.
Thanks to Andy and Dina, every one of our students received a present from Santa this year. The highlight of the party came when our choir began their Christmas presentation. They sang a few Christmas carols to set the tone, but everyone got chills when they began to sing “Hallelujah” and closed with a tear-jerking rendition of “What a Wonderful World.” Many of the visitors, including the director of the school, had tears in their eyes. You had to be there to experience the feeling, the “Christmas” feeling, brought forth with their beautiful voices. The entire school was quiet and a very peaceful feeling could be felt in the air.
The next most exciting part was our annual soccer match – Spring Hill vs. Volcanes! It started off a s a very competitive match. Volcanes had won all the matches prior to this one. Some had been competitive, some not so. Volcanes always has the home-field advantage.
But not this time. The Spring Hill students and teachers were determined to win and they came out victorious after scoring four spectacular goals. It was a very fun game. It was hilarious to see Mrs. Megan and Christine running around like two soccer hooligans determined to score a goal.
The visits from Spring Hill are very valuable and serve a very positive role in the lives of all students involved. Kids from Spring hill get to experience Mexican culture in its entirety. They get to see the poverty of this area but also the happiness and determination of our students despite the circumstances. They get to see the real Mexican people and not the stereotype portrayed elsewhere. They get to see that kids here are the same as kids from the USA – they just want to be happy and feel loved and protected. Our students get to experience the same things but from their own perspective. It is visits like this that can change the world in the long run. When you can put faces and names to people from other countries who you have played with and mingled with, it is harder to be hateful and intolerant towards them and their culture. These kids are our future, and if the Spring Hill visits are any indication, the world’s future is bright.