World connections: ACS returns from Sister Schools trip to Honduras

Published 11:07 am Thursday, June 30, 2016

A group of 33 Alabaster teachers, students and volunteers recently returned from a 10-day Sister Schools trip to Jutiapa, Honduras. (Contributed)

A group of 33 Alabaster teachers, students and volunteers recently returned from a 10-day Sister Schools trip to Jutiapa, Honduras. (Contributed)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – Thompson High School engineering teacher Brian Copes has been on several benefit trips to Honduras over the years, and each played an important role in helping to establish a connection between Shelby County and Central America. But this year’s trip was a little different.

“It was fantastic. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip,” Copes said a little more than a week after returning from the 2016 trip. “It’s was probably the most productive trip we’ve taken down there. Everyone worked so hard.”

From June 12-23, a group of 33 Alabaster educators, students and volunteers traveled to Jutiapa, Honduras, as part of the Alabaster City Schools Sister Schools program. While there, the group completed a variety of tasks aimed at creating a better quality of life for the residents while laying the foundation to turn Alabaster and Jutiapa, Honduras, into global classroom cities.

After arriving in the Central American country, the Alabaster travelers separated into several smaller groups and accomplished a multitude of tasks in a relatively short amount of time.

One group of educators met with Honduran teachers to develop lesson plans and discuss ways to better their classrooms, one group of students installed three water chlorinators donated by Skilled Knowledgeable Youth and Water Step in a town, medical clinic and school and another group worked to set up computer labs in the local schools.

Throughout the next school year, Alabaster classrooms will use the IT infrastructure installed during the trip to Skype with their counterparts in Honduras, allowing the students to work together on lessons, science and language-learning skills.

“Our ESL students sometimes can be disconnected at the school. Now, we will look to them to serve as translators, so they will have a leadership role in the classroom,” Copes said. “This can become a global education.”

Another group of medical students worked in the town’s clinic, treating between 200-300 patients per day, some students installed a bleach maker in the clinic and another group constructed walls and installed an air conditioner in one of the town’s schools.

The Alabaster travelers also took part in a few team-building days, which included zipline rides and a trip to a nature preserve.

Keeping the Alabaster students motivated during the trip was not an issue, Copes said.

“The kids, they were very emotional at times, and so were the adults,” Copes said. “Their eyes were opened to a world they didn’t know existed. They saw the need and they wanted to do more and more each day to help meet that need.

“You just can’t teach that in a classroom,” he added.

Copes said one of the project’s major goals is to create a new standard of life in Jutiapa while exposing Alabaster students to a different culture.

“What I speculate is that the more (Jutiapa is) exposed to a 21st-century education, it will create a pool of highly educated students there,” Copes said “Businesses will hire them or move to be closer to that area, and it will help lift the area out of poverty.

“It won’t happen overnight or tomorrow, but it will happen over time,” Copes said.