Ilse Brenner is Westminster Christian School’s Silver Knight nominee in World Languages. Brenner is fluent in English and Spanish and is vice president of the school’s Spanish Club.
While Brenner excels in languages, she also excels in her commitment to help others. Even though Westminster has mission trips to Nicaragua, her freshman year Brenner started the organization Little Pencils, and started a different mission trip to Nicaragua.
“I knew I wanted to do an educational mission trip,” she says.
She was inspired by the Mother Teresa quote “I’m a little pencil in the hand of the writing God who is sending love letters to the world.”
Brenner’s family is from Nicaragua and they have instilled in her the need to help others in their home country.
“We have always gone there,” she says. “My grandmother has helped out organizations.”
One organization is Pan y Amor, a school located in the Mercado Oriental, the largest market in Latin America.
“It’s 125 blocks,” she says. “Their parents are vendors. We sent a social worker. We send school supplies, clothing and toys. It’s a thing not just once a year but throughout the years. Christmas toys, donations. Aid kits, toothbrushes.”
Many of the children come from broken homes. So when the Westminster students go on the mission trip, they take along a bible teacher who also takes on the task of teaching a sex education class with a religious bent to it.
“The main focus of the trip is to do one-on-one tutoring,” Brenner says. “We also do beautification projects.”
Those projects include adding fun things like hop scotches on the grounds and murals. She says they want to make school a more enjoyable place for the children.
The first year, the mission trip drew 14 volunteers. Last year, there were 32, including parents, teachers and students.
The students pay their own way but the organization fundraises to pay the way of the teacher volunteers. The next trip is scheduled for the first week in June. Brenner also participated in the Westminster sponsored Nicaragua mission trip.
“We work more in the rural area,” she says. “With people who are farmers. This year we’re bringing little gift boxes for a school. We built a house for a family and we are able to give them furniture for the house.”
Going to Nicaragua is familiar to her but she always comes home grateful for what she has here in the U.S.
“That’s why I like going so often,” she says. “I want to go consistently.”
She is also grateful that she is able to connect with the children.
“I’ve been able to see the girls grow up,” she says. “It’s a constant reminder how blessed I am.”
Her family will continue to work to help others in Nicaragua.
“From Little Pencils, my sister created Little Band-Aids, which helps a hospital in Nicaragua,” she says.
At Westminster, Brenner is on the leadership council. She’s in charge of the events committee. She’s a member of the Art club, the National Honor Society, the Foreign Language Honor Society, the Social Studies Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta and she’s the design editor of the school yearbook.
Brenner is considering majoring in political science or international studies. She’s applied to the University of Miami, University of Florida, Wake Forest, and some schools in the Northeast, specifically the Boston area.
“I’m looking at schools that have minors in world development, social work, or urban poverty,” she says.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld