Start here, travel the world:

Scholars Olivia Moctezuma, Cynthia Huerta, Aden Sharp and Sarah Nease doing research for their upcoming trip. Photo by Stevi Breshears.

By Brianna Maestas:

The Amarillo College Presidential Scholars will be spending part of the winter vacation in the Dominican Republic. Twelve AC students and their sponsors will be collaborating with Outreach 360, an international volunteer program that connects groups to service opportunities abroad. The Scholars will be serving the children of an elementary school in the town of Monte Cristi. They will spend four days with the children, coordinating activities for them, such as games, sports and crafts and teaching them English.

“We learn cultural lessons from traveling, but what really sticks with the students is interacting with the locals,” said Lesley Ingham, honors program co-coordinator and speech instructor.

“I think it will be a culture shock but I will step back and take time to appreciate the little things and give back. I am looking forward to working with the kids,” Olivia Moctezuma, a psychology major and Scholar, said.

The Scholars are a group of AC students who have been selected to become a part of this competitive, application-only program. Students admitted are generally within the top 10 percent of their graduating high school classes and show leadership skills. The Scholars participate in leadership retreats, volunteer work, community service and academic research. One of the highlights of the program is the annual overseas trip. In the past, AC has taken groups to Lithuania, Poland, India, Nepal, China, England, New York and Cambodia.

“I think that the fact that they are willing to leave their comfort zone and travel to another country to help and interact with complete strangers is brave,” Ana Prieto, a psychology major said.

“The students will feel uncomfortable at times, but people don’t grow unless they get out of their comfort zone,” said Ingham. “I think it they will look back and reflect on themselves about our country, it will shape their global awareness and heart for others.”

During the fall semester, the Scholars said they have formed close friendships. “I want to bring what we have created in our little group at AC to the citizens of the Dominican Republic,” Dalena Nguyen, a business major and Scholar, said. “I do believe that everything happens for a reason and that by being a Presidential Scholar, I have a new positive outlook on life, school and friends. I can’t wait to change the world with my new friends.”

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