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SM Spring Break Trips: Greece, Paris, DR, and Belize

SM Spring Break Trips: Greece, Paris, DR, and Belize
Mallory Munro

Four international trips highlighted the recent spring break for 41 students and eight adults from the St. Mark's community. Greece, the Dominican Republic, Belize, and Paris, France were the destinations of four groups of intrepid St. Mark's travelers.

Four students joined Admission Counselor Amy Vachris and dorm parent/crew coach Chris Becker '11 on a service trip to the Dominican Republic. Maeve Ahern '20, Ava Limonciello '20, Keidy Molina '21, and Rwick Sarkar '19 participated in the Outreach 360 program at Monte Cristi in the DR, preparing lesson plans and activities for a week spent teaching English to elementary school children at city schools in the mornings and at the Learning Center there in the afternoons.. In addition to the volunteer work, the group traveled to a market town on the Haitian border that was declared a World Heritage Site. While there they learned about commerce and relations between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in order to better understand the history, race relations, and complexity of the island of Hispaniola, home to both Haiti and the DR.

For IV Former Ava Limonciello "it was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. It was a complete culture shock from day one. It really did change my life in the greatest way possible, and I am so grateful for that." Ava found that humor was an effective way to connect. "I was able to communicate with these kids through laughter and love," she said, "and it was a universal language that we both understood."

"Going to the Dominican Republic was a great experience," said V Former Rwick Sarkar. '"We were able to realize all of the privileges we have in our lives while at the same time getting to serve children in Monte Cristi with our fellow St. Markers."

"Our St. Mark's students were outstanding!" declared Ms. Vachris.

This year's Classic Diploma Trip went to Greece. Twelve students—Mei-Mei Arms '19, Hailey Dion '19, Reeve Fenstermacher '19, Jack Griffin '20, Olivia Hammond '19, Tyreese James '18, Faith Jennings '19, Zoe Maddox '19, Thomas Paugh '19, David Ragone '19, Lindsay Strong '19, and Gunnar Vachris '19—led by Classics Department Chair Jeanna Cook and her teaching colleague, Dr. Heather Harwood, visited Athens, Corinth, Delphi, and many other places of interest. The purpose of the trip was to expand the students' literary study of the classical world, including material artifacts of classical culture found at ancient historical sites and in museums. The St. Markers were exposed to the appreciation and analysis of artifacts, architecture, city plans, and monuments, deepening and enriching their understanding of Ancient Greek history and culture. To earn the Department's special Classics Diploma, students must complete three years of one classical language and two years of the other, complete a capstone project in Greek II, and take part in the biennial trip to either Greece or Italy. While this trip is prioritized for students pursuing the Classical Diploma program, other interested Markers also made the journey. "This year, all but one classical diploma student made the trip," said Ms. Cook.

"The Classics trip to Greece was amazing!" said V Former Haley Dion." My favorite memory from the Greece trip was getting up early in the morning in Nafplio and climbing up to the fort at the highest point of the city. A group of us wanted to make it to the top before the sun rose, so we sped up the 900+ stairs and fell in love with the view. From the top you could see the ancient city of Nafplio surrounded by water on both sides."

"When we traveled down to the Agora," wrote Olivia Hammond '19 in the blog journal kept by the traveling St. Markers, "we learned a lot of history not only about the Agora but also about the evolution of Athenian society. The National Archeological Museum," continued Hammond, "was such an exciting place for me because I'm currently taking art history and we saw artworks that I'd studied extensively. It was so incredible to make connections from what I became passionate about in the classroom to what I could see right in front of me."

Visiting the Acropolis Museum in downtown Athens "was a great opportunity to be exposed to more of the artifacts and historically valuable objects originally found there," declared Gunnar Vachris '19 and Jack Griffin '20. "It was incredible to see how much archaeologists have discovered and how much is still missing. The pediments found all over the museum were very impressive and caught all of our eyes."

"The trip to Greece was incredible and almost magical," said V Former Reevie Fenstermacher. " It was surreal to believe that such history took place where we were standing."

Science Department Chair Lindsey Lohwater and fellow science teacher Matt Eddy led a Natural Science trip to Belize over the March break, accompanied by fifteen St. Markers: Luma Allen '20, Nick Bechard '19, Colin Boylan '18, Kareem Chambers '19, Megan Christy '19, Leila Frederick '21, Charlotte Galusza '20, Julianna Gong '19, Robert Harper '19, Bailey Horne '19, Shelby Howard '19, Nick Karlsson '19, Catherine Pellini '20, Katherine Quinlivan '19, and Leo Xie '19. It was an opportunity to explore two diverse ecosystems, participate in field research on coral reefs, birds, and monkeys, learn about native Mayan cultures, and serve the needs of local communities.

The group spent time at a private rainforest reserve.. Inhabited by thousands of intriguing organisms, the biodiversity was incomparable and made for the ideal location to observe and interact with a complex jungle ecosystem full of exotic flora and fauna. They also visited one of the finest outdoor classrooms in the Caribbean, featuring undisturbed natural conditions, along with diverse habitats and abundant levels of marine life. The group also went ziplining.

"The trip to Belize encouraged me to conquer my fears and push myself to do new things that I wouldn't normally do," said Julianna Gong '19. "It was a once and a lifetime experience that I would highly recommend to anyone who is willing to step outside their comfort zone."

The trip's lone III Former, Leila Frederick, also enthused over the adventure. "I had such a good time in Belize! Everyone was so friendly and made me feel welcome as the youngest! We had some awesome adventures and made some cool memories! My favorite part was interacting with the locals and playing with the kids. I had a great experience!"

Modern Languages Department Chair Patricia Gilbert and School Counselor Veronica Barila led a contingent of St. Markers to Paris, France over March break. Ten students—Jack Cai '21, Kristy Chen '21, Luc Cote '19, Ainsley DuBose '19, Eve Elkins '21, Ji Woo Kang '20, Paige Lamalva '20, Sam Leslie '20, Dominic Mongillo '20, and Isabelle O'Toole '20—enjoyed a French Language trip to the City of Lights. The group participated in an immersion program in the morning and visited culturally significant sites in the afternoons and evenings, like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay, the Arc de Triomphe, and more.

"The trip was eye-opening," said IV Former Paige LaMalva. "I was mesmerized by the beautiful streets and landmarks of Paris while being able to speak French."

"It was a fun mix of food, French, and tourist attractions," declared Sam Leslie '20.

While sharing a meal at the close of the trip, Mme. Gilbert asked the students what their most memorable moments of the trip were. Their answers flowed like water across the dinner table and included sightseeing experiences but also plenty of edible memories: "Climbing the Eiffel tower" * "Versailles" * "The view from Arc de Triomphe" * "The walk back from Versailles" * "The top of the Eiffel tower" * "The Hall of Mirrors" * "Croques Madame" * "Le pain quotidian" * "Hot chocolate at Angelina" * and "Les crepes Les crepes Les crepes!"

"Paris is arguably my favorite city in the world," said Ms. Barila. "While I have visited the famous City of Light many times, it was inspiring to be there with students and experience the language, culture and amazing ambiance through their eyes. Our days were action packed! We walked between 10-13 miles each day seeing all the sites the city has to offer, and while there were moments when we were tired and wet (getting stuck for 30 minutes in a downpour in the gardens of Versailles!) we never once heard a complaint from the students! My favorite moment of the trip came in climbing to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. As we reached the top, we were rewarded with a breath-taking view of the city including a sparkling Eiffel Tower. As the tower illuminated, I stood next to a student who let out a tiny squeak of joy! As an educator, it was a very cool moment to share the excitement and enthusiasm for one of my favorite places."

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