Kansas City Private School Volunteers at Ardastra

Fourteen students from The Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City, Missouri spent several hours volunteering at Ardastra Gardens on Majority Rule Day, Friday, January 10. Photo courtesy of Precision Media

14 students from The Pembroke Hill School in Missouri “connected to the world beyond the classroom walls” through a service-learning trip to New Providence where they cleaned out animal habitats at Ardastra Gardens Zoo and Conservation Centre and worked with The Bahamas Red Cross to assist Hurricane Dorian evacuees. Kansas City’s largest independent college preparatory school designates the first school week of the New Year, January Interim Week, where students can opt to take courses outside the regular curriculum or partake in education travel. “This year, I offered this trip because I felt it was important to come to The Bahamas and help out with any relief we could do for the community,” said Pembroke math teacher, Beth Reams. 

“Our students love doing service. At Pembroke, we feel it’s important to educate the whole child not just academically but also how do you help others and what’s the bigger picture. What are you going to do after school? It’s not just about math, science and English but how are you going to make this a better place for everyone. I think they graduate really understanding that concept.” The Bahamas trip was one of four the school offered during the 2019/2020 school year. Other travel itineraries featured Turkey, Guatemala and Italy. To bring the adventure to fruition, successfully combining education and travel, Ms Reams turned to Grand Classroom – a Virginia based-tour company specializing in creating  life-changing trips for students. “These kids will not forget the experience of being able to help someone in need. It puts a perspective on their life and helps them to be more thankful for what they have, but secondarily, we hope that it instills values of service and giving back and helping others,” said Grand Classroom chaperone, Byron Marlowe. 

“A lot of these kids could come back and do a lot of good here in The Bahamas. Hopefully, we can come back and do volunteer and service projects here for many years to come.” The students were in New Providence from January 6-10. 

“We spent most of the time volunteering with the Red Cross handing out supplies or preparing food, giving back to people who were directly impacted by Hurricane Dorian,” explained Grand Classroom chaperone and trip coordinator, Kerianne Mahoney. On Friday, January 10, the last day of the trip, the students spent three hours volunteering at Ardastra Gardens where they cleaned out several exhibits, home to peafowls, White-faced Capuchin monkeys and other animals. “On an annual basis Ardastra has hundreds of volunteers, individuals working behind the scenes or on short-term, special projects,” said animal manager, Hendrew Haley. “We are always happy to have volunteers who want to help us out on the grounds and maintenance with the animals. They are an integral part of keeping Ardastra going. The three hours Pembroke students put in on Friday, went a long way.” 

The trip to The Bahamas was one the high school students will not soon forget. “What stood out the most is seeing drastically different parts of the island,” said Lilly Cooper, an eleventh grader, who has accompanied her father on mission trips to Haiti, Belize & Thailand. 

“There are these super nice resorts where people are vacationing then there are people living in extreme poverty which was really shocking almost.” The experience inspired tenth grader Jackson Presley to want to become a better person. “What’s really important for me this trip versus the other times I have traveled abroad is the ability to get out of the bubble. When you’re working hard and you’re helping people and seeing real poverty first-hand, looking into those people’s eyes that brings thoughts, feelings and emotions to you that you can’t find anywhere else,” said Presley, co-host of the podcast, Inflame The Brain. “You go back to your life with a completely different perspective and a certain amount of gratitude for your own life and what you have. You ultimately figure out a better way to live the life that you live currently.”

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