RFH guatemalaStudents from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School are pictured with the coffee farmers they assisted during a recent language-immersion trip to Guatemala.

Press release from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School

What would it take to get a large number of teenagers out of their houses, away from their cell phones and laptops, and back into their high school’s library at 7:30 on a weeknight? Apparently a healthy dose of gratitude will do the trick.

Over 20 students were present prior to the start of the September 9 meeting of the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School Board of Education. They were there to express thanks for what they described as “a life-changing experience” – school-sponsored language-immersion trips to Canada and Guatemala.

As part of the Study Abroad Program at RFH, 22 students and five chaperones visited Guatemala from June 22 through July 2. The group stayed with host families and volunteered at a coffee plantation, helping to harvest and roast beans in the morning and attending Spanish language classes in the afternoon.

From July 7 through 15, two chaperones accompanied eight students on a language-immersion venture to the cities of Quebec and Montreal.  The group visited cultural sites and attended language classes, and stayed with host families as well.

RFH Supervisor of World Languages Michel Salazar, who was instrumental in the planning of both excursions, made a brief presentation of trip highlights to the Board, members of the administration, faculty members who served as trip chaperones, and parents. The students then had the floor.

“Going in, I did not know what to expect regarding the volunteering aspect,” said junior Willie Freeman, who traveled to Guatemala. “It turned out to be mutually beneficial, because we helped the farmers and in turn discovered what their lives are like while sharpening our Spanish-speaking skills.”

“It was gratifying to be understood by native speakers who knew either very little or no English,” said senior Bethany Parsons, who participated in both of the trips abroad. “When you are walking uphill with a farmer for at least 25 to 30 minutes in order to reach the field, you get plenty of practice speaking the Spanish language.”

Students who participated in the excursion to Montreal and Quebec also expressed appreciation for the language-immersion aspects of their adventure.

“I thought the trip provided great exposure to the language, since we spoke only French with the families we stayed with throughout the day,” said senior Phoebe Short.” Junior Katie Kane agreed, saying “It was wonderful to spend so much time actually speaking the language rather than studying it in a classroom.”

Like many of the students, Katie and Phoebe noted that the experience provided them with the confidence to pursue the study of the language in college and the possibility of choosing it as a major.

RFH students participating in the trip to Guatemala included Nicole Buckley, Caitlin Chasmar, Isabella Cioffoletti, Kara Dixon, Willie Freeman, Kevin Gallagher, Carly Green, Rebecca Karol, Taylor Kelleher, Andrew Maris, Meaghan McGurl, Bethany Parsons, Jessie Rigby, Olivia Rosenberg, Maisie Sapnar, Ian Vernon, Abbey Weis, Jack Woods, and Kristen Yorke.

The RFH students visiting Montreal and Quebec were Julia Bland, Bram Bruno, Katie Kane, Julia Mosby, Lauren Mueller, Bethany Parsons, Max Reynolds, and Phoebe Short.