Willis Intermediate School’s principal learned about education in other countries firsthand last month during a week-long trip to the Dominican Republic.
Heidi Kegley, principal at Willis, spoke to sixth-graders Thursday afternoon and gave a presentation about her trip.
Kegley told students she was one of 52 volunteers who traveled to Constanza, a mountainous town in the Dominican Republic, as part of the Lifetouch Memory Mission Jan. 19-26.
The goal of the mission was to continue work to build a school in the town. Kegley said previous groups had laid the foundation for the school and added that most of her work on the building was the security wall.
Kegley told students that education is different in the Dominican Republic and said that the government would not pay to have a school built. Kegley said the government would only step in to take care of the school once it is finished and said that two more groups from Lifetouch would be traveling to Constanza to finish the school before the start of the next school year.
The school will reportedly accommodate kindergarten through eighth grade and is big enough for 80 students.
“If we had not gone, there would not be a school there,” Kegley said. Currently, students living in the town either don’t attend school or walk six miles to the closest school, she added.
Kegley said her trip tied in well with Willis’ theme this year — “Be The Change.”
“It’s about teaching students that all of us have the opportunity to make a change in someone’s life,” Kegley said. “In school, the community or in the world. For me, [this trip] was an opportunity to connect to students and families and make a difference.”
Kegley also answered students’ questions about life in the small town — including “does anyone have TVs?” and “did they have Wi-Fi?” Kegley responded with a “no” to both questions and told students she saw very little technology apart for some cellphones.
After some questions, Kegley told students that many of the kids in the town do not finish school and that the boys leave school to learn how to farm and the girls leave school to learn how to cook and take care of a home.
“Everyone was so gracious and welcoming,” Kegley said. “You could see relationships growing between the residents and the volunteers. I would do it again in a heartbeat and leave right now. But I would miss all of you very much.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG