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The Review

The official student newspaper of St. John's School.

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St. John’s resumes Costa Rica service trip after three-year break

Courtesy of Marci Bahr
Volunteers spent time along the coast outside Liberia before teaching at local schools.

The mid-summer community service trip that has sent students to Costa Rica since 2006 is an important piece of St. John’s history—and this year was no exception. 

The community service trip has been a part of the School’s community for 16 years. After a three-year break due to Covid, it returned in the summer of 2023 as a two-week excursion with the intention of becoming an annual occurrence yet again. 

The trip included both community service opportunities and entertaining activities including ziplining, surfing and a fan favorite—watersliding. They spent three days along the coast outside of the city of Liberia doing these activities and going to nearby beaches.

“The activities the school chose for us were really fun,” said sophomore project leader Sofia Aboul-Enein. “The most fun day for me was visiting Eco Park, a national park where we did horseback riding and hiking.”

On the trip, students attended “date nights”— dinners where classmates were unexpectedly paired up with each other, allowing them to connect on a deeper level. 

These “date nights” were a fun way for students to get to know each other better before teaming up to help serve the community at local schools.

The volunteering project, which involved students teaching young Costa Rican children and painting the school buildings, made a lasting impact on both the volunteers and the kids they were teaching. While students taught these children, they tried to get to know them and connect with them on a deeper level.

“By teaching the kids, we gave the teachers at the schools a bit of a break for a week,” junior project leader Robert Hamner said.

Students would split into groups, visit different schools and teach classes for children. Volunteers immersed themselves in the Spanish language and taught English and math despite the language barrier.   

“Classmates of mine improved their Spanish in those days that we were volunteering,” Aboul-Enein said. “When they were able to talk to the kids, their Spanish got better, and it was really noticeable.”

The trip—and the extensive amount of planning that goes into organizing it—was started by former Director of Community Service Marci Bahr. Faculty, students and chaperones made the trip a success through careful planning and execution in both Houston and Costa Rica. Training sessions were held every week, during lunch, from January until May to make sure everything was prepared for the trip. 

Because of the distinguished reputation of the volunteering trip, spots were filled within 36 hours, with some students being put onto a waitlist. 

Throughout the course of the week, students explored new places, got to know each other better and  deepened their passion for service. 

“It was really meaningful to help the kids because we made their days and I think they really enjoyed us being there,” Hamner said.

For Hamner, the process felt very rewarding because he had specially bonded with two children, Esynder and Dylan, allowing him to feel more connected to the service he was doing.

“The last day was the most meaningful because when we were saying goodbye, when the kids were hugging us, I realized we made such an impact on them,” Aboul-Enein said.

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About the Contributor
Kate Johnson
Kate Johnson, Staff Writer
Kate Johnson ('26) joined The Review in 2022 as a freshman. Her favorite candy is gummy bears and she wants to live in NYC when she is older.

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