Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

To ignite and nurture creative, ethical, scientific minds that advance the human condition.

IMSA Students Send Gift of Learning to Children in Ecuador

By IMSA Spanish Faculty Member José Palos

Agustin Guaranda, Elkin Navarrete, Josselyn Rivas, Allison Saltos and Marcia Sumba are some of the students in rural Ecuador who may not have been able to go to school this year were it not for the generosity of a group of IMSA students.

Janani Mandayam Comar '11  makes friends for a lifetime.
Gabrielle Heller '10 brings souvenirs from her favorite team.

After spending three weeks in rural Ecuador this past July, IMSA students Grace Choi, Janani Comar, Gabi Heller, Ethan Jacobs, Ashley Jong, Ryan Jordan, Jessica Ventanilla and Emily Weiland decided that they would adopt and sponsor a group of nine disadvantaged children, providing for all the financial needs so that this year these children will have the means to attend their local school.  

“This experience opened me up to a side of the world that I had only imagined but never seen,” said IMSA Junior Ethan Jacobs.  “The connections and experiences forged in Ecuador have helped me personally to develop an overall appreciation of life.  I have learned more from this three-week experience than many years of my life in the United States,”  he said.

This was the fourth consecutive IMSA summer trip to Ecuador.  Facilitated by Spanish faculty member José Palos and Fundación Dale in Guayaquil, IMSA students lived with host families throughout their stay while performing a variety of volunteer activities.

“This trip was immensely beneficial for me not just as a chance to practice my Spanish in a true immersion environment, but Ecuador will forever hold a place in my heart,” said Senior Ryan Jordan.  “I cannot wait to return to meet with all of the great friends that I have made.”

Everyone agreed that meeting and sponsoring their students, making so many friends abroad, having the opportunity to volunteer teach at schools outside of the U.S., and seeing life from more than one perspective was enriching and rewarding.  

“Not only has the trip impacted my future goals, but it has helped me understand how fortunate we are and how we shouldn't take simple things, like showers with a water heater, for granted,”  said IMSA Junior Jessica Ventenilla.

Classmate and friend Grace Choi also discovered important lifelong lessons.

“I think that this is a valuable trip for IMSA because it really opens our eyes and takes us out of our comfort zones to experience something new,” Choi said.  “I think that the more we stay within our own world, we all think this is how other people live, which is not true at all.”  

The beginning of this school year will be an exciting one for these nine families and their children in Ecuador.  They will now have the opportunity to go to school thanks to their new “brothers” and “sisters” at IMSA.  And for these fortunate IMSA students, the goal of advancing the human condition  will become a reality, with recognizable names and faces--those of their new school friends in rural Ecuador.

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