LEWISBORO, N.Y. – When many students talk about Spring Break, they mention the vacations they are going to take with their families or friends and looking forward to a break from school and some down time. But a select group of students from John Jay High School have a different idea about what makes a great Spring Break.
The John Jay Bridges to Community club at John Jay High School will be taking its seventh trip to Nicaragua this coming spring to work with local community members to help improve the living conditions of a few families. The group comprised of 19 students and three teachers, will spend most of the week living in the community and learning how to mix cement by hand and lay cinder blocks as they frame out the walls of a 27-by-30-foot house. They sleep on cots, eat local cuisine and pour their sweat and tears into their work building not only a physical structure, but relationships with the people in the community and each other.
“It is amazing to watch every year how this trip affects the lives of the students and teachers who go on the trip,” said Tom Rizzotti, a John Jay math teacher and advisor to the Bridges to Community Club. “It really is a life-changing experience.”
Rizzotti said the idea for bringing a Bridges to Community chapter to John Jay came from the students. They were looking for an advisor so the math teacher jumped on board and has been doing it ever since. Each year, 19 students go on the trip, but many others help out to make it possible.
Bridges to Community is not a charity organization, so it doesn’t build and give away the houses for free. Additionally, the homeowners must take part alongside the students in the building process. The idea, Rizzotti said, is to give the new homeowners a sense of pride and ownership, knowing they contributed financially and physically.
“The money that they pay for the home is well below market value - $1,000 to $2,000 tops,” Rizzotti said. “They are trying to do something that is self-sufficient and not just charity. The money then goes into a community fund and is used to help build schools or provide small business loans.”
Traditionally, the John Jay students leave for Nicaragua on the first Saturday morning of Spring Break – usually late March or early April – and spend almost eight full days there.
Each year, the group works throughout the year to fundraise for its trips and materials. Its major fundraiser is the annual Silent Auction Dinner held at the high school. This year’s Silent Auction will be held this Friday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the school cafeteria. Tickets to the event are $10 for students and $15 for adults. The items auctioned are donated by area businesses and local residents and include things such as tickets to Yankees and Giants tickets, gift baskets, gift cards and an iPod.
Those who would like additional information about the auction, Bridges to Community, or to make a donation to the club can e-mail Rizzotti at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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