Class goes to the Dominican Republic for service learning

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - Twenty-one members of the Lycoming College community spent two weeks in May in the Dominican Republic as the culmination of a spring semester course in globalization. During the spring semester, students attended class to learn about the Dominican Republic as a part of the larger international system, participated in team-building activities and discussed what to expect while in the Dominican. The class is part of the College’s model to encourage service learning experiences.

“This trip increased the passion I had for community service and has truly made me a citizen of the world, not just a citizen of the United States of America,” said junior Zach Murphy, of Montgomery, N.Y.

Highlights of the trip included two large projects that were created and facilitated by the group. The first project was the construction of an orchard. The class bought more than 1,200 fruit trees and 1,000 hardwood trees and successfully planted 450 of them before they left. The second project was a trip to the mountaintop community of El Naranjito, in an effort to aid the impoverished community by connecting it with small businesses in the United States, such as Alabaster Coffee Roaster and Tea Co. in Williamsport. This is an ongoing relationship that they plan to continue.

The team also participated in many smaller projects, such as two food outreaches during which 350 bags of food were provided to two communities and one medical outreach in which 708 people were assisted. This gave native Dominicans easy access to doctors, dentists, counselors, barbers, clothing and food. They also helped in the restoration of a park and distributed to children baseball equipment that was donated by the Little League International.

“My most meaningful experience involved a medical outreach,” said Dr. N.J. Stanley, associate professor and chair of theatre. “We traveled to a small village called Peralta and assisted a team of dentists and doctors who had volunteered their time to help people in need of medical care. Several students and I were assigned to assist two dentists working in a classroom who mostly pulled teeth for almost five hours. I was struck by how brave the people were. My heart ached for them.”

The main purpose of the trip was to give back to the community through service, but that did not stop them from having fun as well.

“The experience was so physically and sometimes emotionally tiring that we just needed a break for some fun,” said Dr. Jonathan Williamson, chair and assistant professor of political science. In their free time, the group traveled to beaches, the local farmers market or spent the night dancing away with their new Dominican friends. They played games with the locals and rented some ATVs for a fun afternoon of riding around.

“I took 16 wonderful students on this trip, and I saw them become 16 inspiring people,” said Dr. Caroline Payne, assistant professor of political science, who taught the course. “They learned to work together as a group and come together as one in times of need.”

For the trip, Payne partnered with the nonprofit organization Advancing Communities by Educating and Serving (ACES), which was founded in 2005 in Williamsport and does regular outreach in the Dominican Republic.

Participants included Murphy, seniors Katelyn Conway, of Palmyra, N.J.; Luke Dohrman, of Huntingtown, Md.; Maralee Fye, of Bellefonte; Matiana Gallegos, of Denver, Colo.; Matthew Ruth, of Seven Valleys; Katherine Wrona, of Arnold; and Andrew Yetzer, of Ridgway; juniors Anders Apiolaza, of Allentown; Sarah Beddingfield, of Colorado City, Texas; Murphy; Shannon Sheridan, of Danville; and Holly Worth, of Linden; and sophomores Joshua Evans, of Toms River, N.J., and Amanda Ferster, of Sunbury. Drew Tompkins, of Montgomery, a 2013 Lycoming graduate, and Anna Tietzel, a Fulbright language teaching assistant, also attended.

Payne was accompanied by Stanley; Williamson and his wife, Jessica; Jeffrey LeCrone, Lycoming’s campus minister; and Linell Stabler, president of ACES North America.  

Lycoming College is a four-year, residential liberal arts and sciences school dedicated to the undergraduate education of 1,400 students. Its rigorous academic program, vibrant residential community and supportive faculty foster successful student outcomes. Lycoming offers 36 academic majors and is recognized as a Tier 1 institution by U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 1812 and located near the banks of the Susquehanna River in Williamsport, Pa., Lycoming is one of the 50 oldest colleges in the nation. For more information, visit www.lycoming.edu.