Palmer Trinity senior Jacob Gassenheimer spent ten days in the Dominican Republic on a Blue Mission trip to help a poor rural community improve sanitation. He was in the first group of Palmer Trinity students to participate in the summer service project.
“We completed 16 latrines,” he says. “They were like outhouses. We built them to be weatherproof so they would last around six years.”
The latrines provide members of the community with dignity, safety, and a more sanitary lifestyle.
The Palmer Trinity students stayed in the community school house, sleeping on cots and using mosquito nets to keep them from being bitten.
The students also brought gently used clothes to give to the community.
“I [also] brought a few kick balls and a few footballs for the kids,” Gassenheimer says. “The second to last day, we put everything out on tables and individuals from the community came to see what they were in need of.”
Gassenheimer enjoyed playing with the children.
“We spent the entire day with them doing activities like coloring,” he says. “The kids would also come in and play dominos.”
Traveling to this rural and remote area of the Dominican Republic gave him a new perspective on life.
“I learned to be grateful for what I have,” he says. “Before I didn’t understand how big it was to have enclosed bathrooms.”
Since seventh grade, Gassenheimer has volunteered for Friendship Circle. The volunteers help the attendees with arts and crafts, music, and sometimes cooking. Or they go outside and play sports.
Volunteering for the program has taught him how to be patient and to understand different ways of communicating.
“I’ve been with my individual friend for the past five years,” Gassenheimer says.
At Palmer Trinity, Gassenheimer plays both offense and defense on the varsity football team. He is the right guard on the offensive line and middle linebacker on the defense.
He’s committed to the team and hopes to play football in college. If he plays football in college, he expects to play defense.
Gassenheimer made the All-Dade roster in both lacrosse and football. As a junior he was an honorable mention in football and second team in lacrosse.
He was the lacrosse team captain last year and will be captain again this year.
Between seasons, he’s a cheerleader for the varsity basketball team.
He’s the senior class SGA treasurer again this year and is president of the Jewish Cultural Club. Previously he was treasurer. This year he wants to conduct a fundraiser and donate proceeds to Jewish organizations.
He’s also the founder and president of the Engineering Club, which he started last year. His goal is to introduce engineering to Palmer Trinity students and help students who are interested in taking engineering in college.
“I’m expecting to do some competitions,” he says.
He’s deciding between majoring in architectural or civil engineering in college.
“Ever since I was a kid, I loved the idea of designing a building or seeing how a building is made,” he says.
Gassenheimer is in the Math Club and participates in math competitions. He’s a peer counselor and was on the debate team his sophomore year. He competed in the oratory debate event where his chosen topic was on dyslexia. Jacob was diagnosed with dyslexia as child and worked hard to succeed academically over the years. It was important for him to speak on his condition in order to educate others about the issue and provide them with a greater understanding of what it means to be dyslexic.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld