Palmetto High School junior Elizabeth Rosario spent her spring break in Peru. She traveled with other students in the Cambridge Capstone program. While there, the students participated in a service project, making improvements to the Yachay Wasi School in Ollantaytambo.
The rest of the time they were able to go sightseeing.
Rosario says the service project was probably the best part of the trip.
“It was a really amazing experience,” she says.
On the first day, the students met the children who attended the school.
“They were all dressed up because it was water day,” she says, adding that they had a parade to attend and celebrate. “The kids went off and we started the hard labor stuff. We started to dig a trench from the back of the school to the river.”
Rosario says they had to use pickaxes to soften the soil enough to dig the trench for the pipeline. Not only did they do the heavy labor for the water pipe, they also did the prep work for a window.
“We had to soak wine bottles and vodka bottles in a big basin,” she says. “We scraped them until they were clean. They stack them up horizontally, one on top of the other. We cut off the tubular tops.”
The windows are finished by pouring cement on top of the bottles.
“It’s a very small kindergarten,” Rosario says. “They have been here a year or two.”
In addition to digging the trench and stacking bottles for windows, the students also painted the school’s exterior and moved adobe bricks.
Rosario’s humanitarian work continues this summer in Haiti.
“This summer I am going to Haiti at the end of June to help lay the foundation of a school we raised money to build,” she says. “The school costs $30,000 to construct, so we are going as a group of 15 and each person raised $2,000 through fundraising.”
While they are there, they will stay with Haitian families in the small village where the school is located.
“I believe that the first step to achieving success in a developing country is through education,” she says. “Education is a resource that one possesses forever; it doesn’t diminish and it can’t be stolen. That’s why a lot of my community service deals with education and schools for the less fortunate.”
As a child, Rosario used to go to Bonaire, one of the ABC islands. There they volunteered for an organization that helped the native donkeys.
“We would adopt a donkey and we would work there most of the days of the week. We would feed the baby donkeys with bottles, and with hay. We used to go down every spring break,” she says. “Since I was little, I’ve liked helping out.”
At Palmetto, Rosario is currently vice president of the junior class. As a senior, she’ll be student council vice president. She’s also secretary of DECA and a member of Junior Achievement. Rosario is in the English National Honor Society and the National Honor Society.
Outside of school, Rosario is a member of the Teen Leadership Council at the South Dade YMCA. The council schedules community service opportunities, including visits to Camillus House.
“You don’t have to leave to find people who need help,” she says.
The council organizes Teens Teaching Tech, a program that has teens educating senior citizens about technology.
“Every time we have a teacher planning day, we get together and we invite the elderly members of the Y to come in,” she says. “We teach them how to use their phones.”
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld