Clark sophomore Courtney Pharr, a member of the volleyball team, was fortunate enough as a freshman to travel with a contingent of other Clark student-athletes to Guatemala for an international service learning trip known as CAST (Clark Athletics Service Trip), which was the brainchild of former Cougars tennis player Harris Rollinger.
Rollinger earned his master’s degree from Clark last year, but he wanted CAST to continue. He asked Pharr if she wanted to lead this year’s trip.
“Yes, I did,” Pharr said, “and it was a life-changing experience.”
Earlier this month, Pharr and 10 other Clark student-athletes, as well as Micki Davis, director of community engagement at Clark, and representatives from Service for Peace, spent nine days in El Cidral, Dominican Republic, working with community members to build a schoolroom, interacting with local children and immersing themselves in a different culture.
El Cidral is located in a valley nestled in the mountains of Villa Altagracia County, about 45 minutes northwest of the capital city of Santo Domingo. Most residents are employed seasonally in agriculture, and many rely on remittances from family members abroad. The community has big plans for its future, however, including an improved educational environment for its youngsters.
“It’s refreshing to see the community is driving the plan for development, not external forces saying, ‘This is what we think you need,’ ” Davis said. “To go and be a part of that and see that they really have their own self-determination and plan for the schoolroom and a basketball court after the schoolroom and being part of making that happen was really exciting and something that resonated with the ‘Clarkie’ spirit.”
The elementary school where the Clark group worked was basically one big classroom divided by moveable walls — not ideal for teaching or learning. The Clark student-athletes began the work of building four new classrooms, putting up cement walls and doing other carpentry work.
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