Marist’s 2014-2015 school year included multiple opportunities for students to travel near and far, improving their language skills and cultural understanding, growing their talents, and engaging them with those most in need.
The school’s world language department offered a robust exchange program during the year. Over the past few years, Marist has partnered with schools in Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Ecuador, France and Italy. These are almost always schools also sponsored by the Marist Brothers. This past school year, Marist families hosted students from Spain, Italy, and France during the fall semester. Marist students then traveled to those countries in the spring.
In each location, students put their language skills to the test, attended classes, participated in cultural excursions, and explored their new surroundings. Recent graduate Elizabeth St. Lawrence recommends taking advantage of the travel opportunities at the school. “Overall it was an amazing experience,” she said. “I feel much more confident in my language skills. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I made so many memories that I'll save forever.”
The travel opportunities are a strategic part of the world language department’s overall program to develop students’ language skills. “The trips are a way for [students] to further connect not only with the languages they study but more importantly their fellow Marist brothers and sisters living abroad,” explained Erica Nathan-Gamauf, Marist’s world language curriculum coordinator. “The lasting friendships created over the years in these countries help strengthen the cultural, linguistic and Catholic lessons presented by our teachers in the classroom each day in Chicago.”
During the course of the year, the campus ministry office sponsored five service trips. Open to juniors and seniors, these opportunities take students out of their comfort zone, and help them build new skills and insights. During the 2014-2015 school year, students and teachers traveled to New Orleans, upstate New York, Jamaica, Guatemala, and Dixon, Ill., to bring the Marist mission alive for those most in need. “These trips are where faith is put into action, and students realize they can make an impact on the world,” said campus minister Patrick Meyer ’10. “The trips also provide powerful opportunities for students to grow in their own faith, and to reflect and share very openly with their classmates about their experience and how it impacts their relationship with God.”
Typically, these trips offer a mix of physical labor and human services work. In Guatemala, the teens built homes from the ground up for deserving families in the beautiful but impoverished countryside. In New Orleans, students served at food pantries and local schools, while in New York, Marist students cleaned and painted facilities at Camp Marist run by the Marist Brothers, for summer camps that welcome children and adults with a variety of physical and mental challenges. The trip to Jamaica included many activities with young kids. The Marist students fell in love with the children, and even returned to Marist and collected loose change from classmates to fund one student’s entire grade school education. “I realized what was most important wasn’t material, but the time spent with my classmates and learning from the people of Jamaica,” Neal Salzman , a 2015 graduate, explained.
Still other students connected more deeply to their Marist roots by attending Marist Youth gatherings in Mexico and New York. In Mexico, students met with fellow Marists from North and South America, and learned firsthand the challenges of surviving as a farm worker. The teens had to find work in the area and survive on the average pay of a local resident. Though challenging, the Marist Chicago students found it enlightening. In New York, students from all the North American Marist schools met at the Brothers’ retreat center and participated in team building games and spiritual reflections. They also shared ideas about how to bring the Marist mission and spirit to life at their home schools through events and activities.
Lastly, Marist musicians hit the road during Easter break to perform and tour. The famed band traveled to New York City, where they attended music clinics and performed at The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. “The performance itself was wonderful, and it was such a beautiful place to perform with all the aircrafts around us,” Marist band director Andrew Creagh ’04 explained. The band members also attended a Broadway musical and toured Carnegie Hall, along with other notable performance venues. The school’s chorus visited Nashville, Tenn., where the group had a session at the historic RCA Recording Studio B. They visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry, and performed at the Belle Meade Plantation.
The opportunities to travel opened the eyes of many Marist students during the course of the year. They had the chance to bring academic lessons to life, live out their faith through service, form bonds with Marists all over the world, and share their talents in new and interesting ways. Similar trips are planned for the coming school year with the hope to offer even more opportunities to students.