Students honor Park City Five
Ryan Summerlin August 16, 2013
In 2008, Park City lost five high school graduates (PC5) within a span of seven months. To honor these graduates and their adventurous spirits, their parents organized five humanitarian trips across the globe for Park City High School students.
This summer’s trip to India with Rising Star Outreach served as the last of the five trips. They spent two weeks in Delhi and Chennai on medical, construction and education expeditions.
Spanish teacher George Murphy took a group of students from June 12-26, and PC5 mother Kelly Yeates took a second group of students from June 22 to July 7. Sierra Diemling and Jayla Lundstrom accompanied Murphy while Michael O’Brien and Claire Whitney joined Yeates.
"I have never been out of the bubble of Park City," said Diemling, referring to her small hometown’s safe and prosperous atmosphere. "I wanted to do something life-changing, something that would give me a reality check about how easy we have it here."
The students’ two-week expeditions were organized into busy three-day rotations. One day was a medical expedition, the next day they worked on a construction project, and the third day students helped with education.
Murphy has taken students on tourist trips to Spanish-speaking countries. When he and his students came across children in need during a trip to Costa Rica, he said that he felt like they should have been helping. He decided that taking students on a humanitarian trip would be the best way to become immersed in another culture as well as make a difference they would never forget.
"It was crazy to see how these people would just open up to us and welcome us, "said Yeates. "No matter how big their struggles, they were still filled with such joy."
Diemling began to speak with passion about the people they met on their travels, such as Maria, the woman with no hands who spoke only Tamil, and Gracy, the 8-year-old girl who showed Diemling her gratitude upon her departure by giving her the only pack of smiley-face stickers she had left.
"I didn’t know what to think when I met Maria," said Diemling, "but when we were leaving, she reached up and kissed me on the head."
Murphy looked upon his students with a smile as they began chattering away about the amazing moments on their trips that they would not soon forget.
"I’ve always wanted to go on a service trip, and when I found out this was the last of the PC5 trips, I knew I had to do it," said Lundstrom. "It was great to help people while being completely out of your element."
All four students will be entering their junior year at PCHS and have become inspired by the experience. Diemling wants to become a doctor, and O’Brien knows now that no matter what he does, he wants to keep travelling outside of Park City.
"It was great knowing we made a difference and that they were so appreciative," said O’Brien.
At the end of the summer, Whitney was named Agent of Change for her dedication to the program. According to the website, an Agent of Change is a "volunteer, partner or supporter of Rising Star Outreach that exemplifies service that facilitates change."
Whitney has travelled the globe extensively, but this was her first humanitarian effort.
"I just wanted to experience the world in a way that was not just community service," said Whitney. "I wanted to learn more about the culture in the actual place, see the struggles and help, not just go and see beautiful structures."
The PC5 also held a special place in Whitney’s heart. Her older sister was on the tragic hiking trip in Austria with Chris Yeates. Knowing that she would be accompanying his mother on the trip to India this summer was a distinct deciding factor for her, she said.
While this summer’s trip was the last of the PC5 trips, Murphy hopes to keep the PC5 Memorial 5K going every May so that PCHS students will still have the opportunity to make a difference like they did this summer and the four summers before.
"These are very tough trips, but they are worth it," said Murphy. "This is why we teach."