CBA students Hannah Aldrich, Grace O’Connor and Joe Akl with St. Vincent Strambi students and Brother John McDonnell.

Dewitt, NY -Christian Brothers Academy faculty member Vin Horan, along with students Lucy Person, Madison Doane, Grace O’Connor, Joe Akl, Chad Charette, and Hannah Aldridge spent winter break on a service immersion trip to St. Vincent Strambi, a co-educational Lasallian school, with approximately 120 students in grades 7-12, in Jamaica.

CBA students attended Mass each morning. Following Mass, they were immersed in classrooms, followed by afternoon cultural lectures and trips to nearby places. Hours were spent teaching and playing frisbee with St. Vincent Strambi students, most of whom had never seen a Frisbee before. The CBA students and the older Strambi students were given several hours to participate in an open-ended discussion about their lives, what it’s like to be a teenager where they live, their families, their cultures, and their future plans. The students also took part in Jamaica Day-an all-day assembly of Jamaican music, history, food and dancing for the entire school.

In addition, CBA students raised money for Strambi to make capital improvements that they otherwise would not have been able to pay for. In particular, enough money was raised to re-thatch the roof of the outside gazebo, and to purchase seven solar panels to help offset the school’s electricity bills.

The students stayed at the Brothers’ residence at the school with Brother John McDonnell, FSC.

CBA students enjoyed their service immersion trip to Jamaica during winter break. Pictured (l-r): Hannah Aldrich, Chad Charette, Lucy Person, Joe Akl, Madison Doane and Grace O’Connor.

Student reflections:

Grace O’Connor: Strambi is such a joyful place. Loud classrooms with dedicated teachers crowd the small high school. Students brought fresh tart pineapples and real Jamaican bananas and true sugar cane and cakes for us to try. Br. John, a warm and welcoming presence, helped us at every turn even though he was stretched thin across all of his school responsibilities. I hope that all of us who went can bring the energy we experienced back to Christian Brothers Academy of Syracuse.

Joe Akl: “I was assigned the youngest class of students and was tasked with assisting the teacher and tutoring the students. In math, the class was learning binary adding and subtracting and I worked with several students helping them gain an understanding of the topic and work on problems. In English class I assisted Miss Bennett with the lesson and engaged in class activity using the vocabulary words introduced in the lesson. Our group was also able to spend some time with students our own age and participate in discussions comparing teenage life in Jamaica to teenage life in the US. We found many similarities and some differences. By the end of the time I spent with these students, I realized that the school and the students had great needs. I made the decision to donate the majority of my spending money to the school. I am glad to have had the opportunity to serve in Jamaica.

From CBA’s Facebook page: