Since Colorado Academy began its partnership with a small school in a rural village of Haiti in 2011, the school has taken 65 students and 17 faculty members on six different trips to Haiti, trips that have taught innumerable lessons, built hundreds of friendships, created from the ground up a school, a cafeteria and kitchen, and helped the Haitian community of Nordette help itself.

At a Parent Association meeting in April, CA employees Stuart Mills and Jesse Schumacher reported to the community what a five-year investment in this partnership has meant, what kinds of difficulties and hardships they have encountered, and how the opportunity to be part of the program has changed students’ lives.

“We are building the meaningful connections that all of us had dreamed of and hoped for,” says Schumacher. Throughout the process, CA has worked to make local connections – like with the Denver non-profit The Road to Hope, as well as academic connections, by offering an upper school elective on the history and culture of Haiti. CA’s ongoing efforts, run as part of the school’s Global Travel and Exchange Program, allow for new and returning students to be part of each year’s trip. Mills says the mentoring aspect is important for young people.

Students Jacqueline Patel, Audrey Groves, and Ady Richards each spoke about the impact of having traveled to Haiti and worked in the village of Nordette.  Students do ongoing work here in Denver that helps advance their efforts there – from fundraising projects and grant requests to brainstorming programs that will allow CA kids to connect with children there.

Now a CA senior, Groves says her work in Haiti impacts her perspective, not only about her time in high school, but in college and beyond. “I know that’s the one thing that will inspire me to work hard in all my classes and to take advantage of the things I am given in order to do the very best that I can do for the people in Haiti.” She says, “They live extremely different lives, and they have taught me to work harder and dig deeper.”

What was once a trip that CA leaders had to convince students to be part of has now become a trip for which so many CA students apply, that one-third of them are turned away.  Says Mills, among the most poignant lessons is for CA kids to see how “people facing such adverse conditions can be so happy and so joyful.” Next year’s trip to Haiti will take place in March of 2018.