Park City students will be among first to travel to Cuba | ParkRecord.com

Park City students will be among first to travel to Cuba

(Top, from left) Stella Ray, Lauren Robertson, Claire Rogers, Chloe Etheridge, (bottom, from left) Alexa Spink, Jade Eng, Tushig Tsogtbaatar, Ali Baker and Jessica DiCaprio are among 22 Park City High School students set to go on a service trip to Cuba. They say they carry a large responsibility to represent America well in a country whose relations with the U.S. have just begun to thaw. (Bubba Brown/Park Record)

Jessica DiCaprio has first-hand knowledge of how a service trip to a foreign country can change one’s perspective.

Last year, the Park City High School student was among a group that visited Guatemala and worked with young children. Each day, she said, the children woke up around 5 a.m. and cleaned their entire school before ever sitting down to work on a math problem or read a book. For DiCaprio, it was an astounding look at what life is like outside of America.

"It was just amazing to see how hard they worked and how grateful they were for the education that they have and the opportunities they’ve been given," she said. "It really made me more appreciative of my education."

Now, DiCaprio and 21 other Park City High School students are gearing up for what they hope will be another life-changing experience. They are set to go on a Global Volunteers service mission to Cuba this June, where they will teach English, work in community gardens and help improve local infrastructure.

The uniqueness of the opportunity is not lost on the students. Relations between the United States and Cuba have just begun to thaw, and the group will be among the first to visit since President Barack Obama loosened sanctions on Americans traveling to the country.

"Cuba has barely opened up," said Stella Ray. "It’s like a whole new experience we get to have."

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With just less than a month until their trip, the students are reaching out to the community to help cover their travel costs. They are set to hold a fundraising dinner Saturday, May 21, at 6 p.m. at Park City High School. The students are making Cuban dinners for $25 a plate, and a silent auction will feature a variety of items, such as art pieces and gift baskets.

Additionally, the students planned to hold a carwash Saturday, May 14, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the parking lot of the Reid Building at 750 Kearns Blvd.

In preparation, the students are taking classes about how to teach English and also boning up on their Spanish because Cubans have a unique accent.

"Putting all of this effort into it is going to make the trip and the experience even more worth it," Ray said. "We’ll get more out of it and appreciate it more."

For Chloe Etheridge, the trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"I’m really excited to go see what it’s like," she said. "I mean, we’ve heard all about it and I can’t wait to go see the culture and learn about the people and just see what it really is."

But as excited as the students are, they understand that being one of the first high school groups from the U.S. to visit the country comes with a lot of responsibility.

"We want to be really polite and respectful of their culture because, yes the relations have been mended, but our nations still have tension, especially between two different types of governments," DiCaprio said. "We want to be the best representatives for America as possible."

For more information on the carwash or the fundraising dinner, or to buy tickets, contact DiCaprio at pcjessd17@gmail.com .

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