Alumni Spotlight: Ellie Hitt

Nashville, TN native Ellie Hitt, 17, volunteered from June 25 to July 2, 2011.

Why did you decide to volunteer with GLA in Costa Rica?

Ellie: Last spring, I was talking to my parents about how I wanted to have a meaningful summer experience. We looked into different intensives at colleges across the U.S. and also at programs like Moondance. All seemed like wonderful and beneficial experiences, but when I saw the catalog for Global Leadership Adventures I knew that it was the perfect fit for me. It was affordable, the perfect length, and had a gamut of fun adventures. I decided to go to Costa Rica because I wanted to practice my Spanish.

Volunteer with children in Costa Rica with Global Leadership Adventures

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Ellie: Every morning we woke up around 7 am, ate breakfast, then loaded the buses to take us to La Escuela Tempatal. There, we were split into 3 groups then paired with one of the classes at the school. We grew close to the children as we taught them English through games, art, and conversation. Each day, we created a lesson plan and ran the class with a specific theme in mind. For example, one day we taught the children family words in Spanish. To reinforce the words, they drew pictures of their own family and labeled their titles (grandmother, father, etc.)

After an hour in the classroom, we would play games such as tag, soccer, or the hokey pokey. Following class and play time, we worked on building a multipurpose court. Because we were the first GLA Costa Rica trip of the summer, we were tasked with clearing the land of weeds and small trees so the next groups could finish the structure.

What made this volunteer experience unique and special?

Ellie: Volunteering in Costa Rica was unlike anything I have ever done. Although I have gone on mission trips and volunteered before, Global Leadership Adventures provides a unique experience. I traveled to Costa Rica alone and didn't know a soul until I arrived. This proved to be a non-issue. Everyone was so kind and outgoing. I can honestly say that we grew to be a family. In fact, we all keep in very close contact and have a Facebook group where we catch up and reminisce. I think the strong bonds we had with each other helped us to be more effective volunteers. We were eager to teach the children English as well as to learn from them and their rich culture. Additionally, Global Leadership Adventures makes sure that the trip is not all work. In fact, we spent lots of time bonding through dance lessons, white water rafting, ziplining, and horseback riding.

How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?

Ellie: Cheesy as it may sound, Costa Rica really changed my life. I now look at the world with a fresh pair of eyes. Spending time outside of my comfort zone proved to be astronomically beneficial to my character. I feel that I am now more kind to everyone I meet. I am also more open to new ideas and cultures.

Finally, I appreciate all of my blessings. After seeing poverty in Costa Rica, I am infinitely grateful for all the gifts in my life, simple as they may be. My trip to Costa Rica was so incredible that I am going to Tanzania this summer with Global Leadership Adventures again.