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A group of nine Lafayette students and two administrators recently went on an Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip to tutor middle school children on the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation in Tuba City, Ariz. They were one of four teams of Lafayette students who performed ASB community service projects this year.

The students were: Sarah Afarian ’02 (Wrentham, Mass.), Maureen Charleroy ’01 (Cranbury, N.J.), Melissa Fiorelli ’02 (Yardley, Pa.), Jennifer Guogas ’01 (Chalfont, Pa.), Aimee Lavarnway ’01 (Schroon Lake, N.Y.), Darren Lopez ’01 (Highland Mills, N.Y.), Michelle Beth Lee ’01 (Rock Cave, W.V.), Kristin Pontoski ’03 (Willow Grove, Pa.), and Shirley Satuh ’03 (Tokyo, Japan). The were accompanied by Jodie Frey, assistant dean of students, and Lisa Vislocky, area coordinator for off-campus programs.

After being selected in the fall semester, group members became acquainted with one another and planned on how to raise the $7,800 needed for the trip. Charleroy gives this account of the experience:

As a team, we all took a special job (e.g. fund-raising chair, scribe, team contact, etc.) to help us make this awesome opportunity become a reality. We found it necessary to meet at least once a week for our own organizational purposes, and due to our realization of the necessity to begin the fund-raising challenge immediately. We tackled this obstacle with a vengeance by committing ourselves to the success of 50/50 raffles, letters to companies, silent auctions, selling flowers for Valentine’s Day, and many more activities. We were doing well and things got even better after we were notified of the two Lafayette staff members who would be accompanying us on the trip while also helping with the money-raising activities.

Spring Break was approaching and we all were tired of planning, meeting and raising money for our trip, so we asked for our balance. We were a little short, but overall, had raised an impressive and essential amount of money for our endeavor. We then began to plan for our actual service in the middle school on the reservation. Our primary challenge was to tutor both third- and fifth-graders for passing the statewide AIMES proficiency test in the Eagle’s Nest Middle School in Tuba City, Arizona.

At this point in the semester, we had most of our money, plane tickets, and rental car reservations, and were beginning to form strong bonds within the team. Excitement as well as nerves began to surface as March 10 neared. We were ready to go and reflections about why ASB interested us began to surface. It became known that every member of our team had a unique history, but we all shared the commonality of wanting to help others. As an employee and volunteer at the Landis Community Outreach Center, I knew of everyone’s sincerity based on seeing them come and go out of the office for a number of volunteering reasons.

Our team had a very special dynamic and was more than ready to go out to the Navajo Nation and make as much of a difference as time allotted us. Based on our short stay, we were all aware that we might not be able to do as much as each of us would have liked, but we were ready to go and completely immerse ourselves into a culture each of us respected and longed to interact with.

Upon arriving at the high school dormitory where we lodged, we soon met the leader of the organization we went through as well as another team from the University of Virginia. It was clear that our own team had a very unique and unusual bond. As a unified team, we did everything together and to the best of our abilities in our task as tutors, as well as during our cultural activities or trips when not tutoring (i.e. experiencing Navajo sheep camp, jewelry making, visiting the Grand Canyon, and much more).

I feel completely confident when saying that every one of the 11 members of the Lafayette team had a wonderful, fulfilling, life-altering experience in Tuba City. Forever, we will be bound together by the strings of the ASB organization!

Categorized in: Students