Park City High School students experience Hopi culture on service trip to reservation
Bella Shaw thought she was prepared to visit the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. She was told she would likely see children running around without shoes and buildings that were drastically different from the ones in Park City. But still, it was a shock when she saw them in person.
Shaw, a senior at Park City High School, was one of 29 high school students who visited the reservation last weekend during a service trip organized by the Park City Rotary Club. The teens taught youth on the reservation, built a pergola and an irrigation ditch and learned about the Hopi culture.
Members of Utah Rotary clubs and Interact Clubs, the high school version of Rotary, have been volunteering at the reservation since 2008, said Tom Kelly, a board member of the Park City Rotary Club. The South Jordan Rotary Club has traditionally led the trip, but Park City Rotary was handed the reins this year. Students from Park City High School, South Summit High School and Davis High School attended, as well as five Rotary foreign exchange students from France, Italy, Taiwan, Thailand and Japan.
Kelly said the trips educate high school students about the value of service and show them different cultures.
Shaw said it was an eye-opening experience.
“It was a culture shock,” she said. “We were driving by these houses that are thousands of years old that have solar panels on them so they can watch satellite TV, but then they don’t have enough money to buy their own food.”
Sophia Adrian, a Park City High School sophomore who went on a similar trip with the Park City Rotary Club last year, was also taken aback. She had forgotten some of the little details, like the fact that there is often glass on the streets where children are running barefoot. When she told them to put on shoes, they said they did not have any.
“One minute we’re driving through Utah and parts of Arizona and we have our own problems,” she said. “Then we get into this third-world country, and that’s quite literally what it was.”
While teaching third- through sixth-graders at two elementary schools on the reservation, the high school volunteers did an activity where they had the children write a problem down and try to think of a solution.
When the volunteers gathered the papers, they saw the words depression, abuse and alcoholism written. Adrian said that was the moment from the trip that stood out the most. It was hard to talk these problems through with the students. Sometimes, she felt speechless.
But parts of the trip were beautiful as well. The students visited the village of Walpi, which is an old and sacred place for the Hopi people. The village is more than 1,000 years old and is part of a group of villages that are the oldest continually habited places in North America.
The volunteers could only access the locations with a tour guide, and Shaw said it was amazing to see an old culture holding onto its roots.
“It was really cool to understand it on a physical level and actually get to be a part of it for at least a day or two,” she said.
The students also participated in the work that the Hopi people have to do every year, such as digging irrigation trenches to collect and gather water. The students built a pergola and walkway.
Christina Miller, a member of the Rotary club and a co-organizer of the trip, said the trip was beneficial because it helped Park City students and other students in the state realize how lucky they are to have things like running water and electricity. She is hopeful that the trip will leave a lasting impact.
“We’re hoping that trips like this make lifelong humanitarians and kids who want to do lifelong service projects,” she said.