Steamboat Springs The Lowell Whiteman School student Lolo Thornton said she hasn’t completely left behind the small Costa Rican village in which she spent three weeks working and learning Spanish during the summer. For that matter, she can’t forget the children’s home at which she volunteered in Tanzania or the village in Bolivia where she did community service last year.
Sitting in a cold classroom of Whiteman’s rustic campus near Steamboat Springs on Monday afternoon, Thornton said she’s now looking to share with her classmates some of the things she learned on her foreign excursions. Specifically, the junior wants other students in Steamboat to learn what she learned pouring concrete sidewalks and repairing gutters in developing countries: Community service should be a desire not just a graduation requirement.
“It feels so good to help a community, especially when you get to see that the work you do actually helps someone,” she said, adding that gutters she helped install in the Costa Rican village near Zarcero in July helped residents avoid flooding and drainage issues.
When Lowell Whiteman’s Global Immersion Studies students return from their Thanksgiving vacations later this month, Thornton will speak to them about her recent trip to Costa Rica led by Denver-based Walking Tree Travel, which takes students on community service-oriented trips to 10 countries across the globe. Thornton also will seek out volunteers for a new student-led community service project she’s hoping to install in her own backyard.
She said she would like to bring Roots & Shoots, an international youth-led service program founded by the Jane Goodall Institute, to the Lowell Whiteman and Steamboat communities.
Thornton said she would start the program by recruiting students to help plant trees, start and maintain a community garden and volunteer at Steamboat’s animal shelter, among other things. She said the seeds of those ideas were planted in the several countries she has visited and worked in thousands of miles from the Yampa Valley.
“And I’ll be thinking of some more ideas over Thanksgiving, but hopefully I cannot only spread it here at this school, but into town as well,” Thornton said.
From her dorm room at Lowell Whiteman, she communicates regularly through Facebook with the Costa Rican family she lived with for three weeks beginning in June. On the first night they spent together, Thornton said they could barely communicate because of the language barrier. But after conversations became easier and her time came to a close, Thornton said it was hard to leave.
“It’s always difficult to leave a foreign country and come back to reality,” Thornton said. “When you get to a foreign country, especially one that is developing, you have a real chance to show your true character through some difficult situations. The work brings out the best or the worst in people, and we’re lucky it brought out the best of us,” she said.
Walking Tree Director Luke Mueller said Monday he was glad to hear that Thornton was expanding on her summer trip with the group. He said most of the students who travel on the service trips go on to study abroad and, like in Thornton’s case, to continue their community service closer to home.
“It’s always a pleasure for us to see students become engaged world citizens on the heels of their time with us,” Mueller said.
— To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com