The year I graduated from Colorado Academy more than 30 years ago, I was voted “Most Likely to Join the Peace Corps” in the yearbook. Now, as I am poised to depart CA and undertake volunteer service with this organization for the second time (the first being in Bolivia 2006-2008), I find myself asking: “What led me here?” Was it a self-fulfilling prophecy or something in my CA education that affected my life’s decisions? Probably a bit of both, but the more I ponder it, the more I must credit CA with laying the foundation for my path of global exploration.
During my time as a CA student, I traveled to India and Venezuela, hosted an exchange student from Uruguay (who continues to be one of my best friends today), and fell in love with the Spanish language. My teachers encouraged me to embrace and build upon these experiences, which led me to take a gap year in Spain, study abroad in college in Ecuador, and get involved professionally in international affairs. A variety of overseas jobs and fellowships with the U.S. State Department followed, eventually taking me full circle and landing me back at CA as a faculty member and Director of Global Travel and Exchange Programs. For the past six years, I have aspired to “pay it forward” by inviting members of our community to partake in a variety of memorable journeys. I am proudest of the signature trips and exchange programs which are now a well-established part of our school’s fabric and have provided transformational experiences to hundreds of CA students in all three divisions: LS Scotland, MS Costa Rica, MS Quebec, MS Peru, US Cuba, US Scotland, US Haiti, and US China, among others.
As one can imagine, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic drastically altered the nature of Global Education at CA. No longer were we able to board planes to faraway lands or host students from our partner schools. We never once wavered, however, from our commitment to building bridges with others around the world. We initiated virtual exchanges with Greece, Guatemala, Venezuela and Haiti; Dr. Vogels and I piloted a virtual Freshman Intensive, immersing our Grade Nine students in the pressing issues of immigration over two days; five CA students participated in a series of global dialogues with students from China, Bhutan, Russia, and India; we went ahead with the Amnesty Club’s annual Write-For-Rights event; former Peace Corps volunteers spoke via Zoom with my Advanced Seminar Spanish and Global Perspective classes.
The way I see it, the importance of global awareness has never been greater. Eventually, we will travel again. Until then, we can hold firm to our values of learning about and engaging with the world around us. As I complete my final week of teaching on the CA staff, I know that advancing cultural competency at CA will remain a pillar of the education experience we provide. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my journey. I will always carry this special place with me wherever I go!
Here are Daniel’s picks for travel programs for students:
VETTED HIGH SCHOOL AND MIDDLE SCHOOL GLOBAL TRAVEL PROGRAMS
- Amigos de los Americas – https://amigosinternational.org/
- Concordia Language Villages – www.concordialanguagevillages.org
- Global Works – www.globalworkstravel.com
- Where There Be Dragons – www.wheretherebedragons.com
- World Leadership School – www.worldleadershipschool.com
- Walking Tree Travel – https://walkingtree.org/
- Envoys – https://envoys.com/
- Visions Service Adventures – https://visionsserviceadventures.com/
Compiled by Daniel Lopez, Director of Global Travel & Exchange Programs, Colorado Academy
(January 6, 2021)