Once a year, AHN celebrates mini course week. During this week, students can either stay at school and go to a different location every day, go on the Disney Epcot trip, or go on mission trips. Mission trips are a great opportunity for Academy girls to go out throughout the Eastern United States or Dominican Republic and help the less fortunate. Over one hundred girls apply each year. The application process is simple, you have to write an essay about the prompt they give you. For example, “What is a struggle you have gone through that has made you stronger?” or “Why do you believe you would be a good candidate for mission trips?” The main qualities leaders are searching for for their trips are a candidate’s determination, strong work ethic and willingness to serve. The real question is, how do they decide who gets what trip, and what makes people get denied? Sister Lisa shared with me her feelings about this application process, “I do think there’s a certain level of maturity, faith development and altruism I’m looking for when a student writes an application essay. I don’t think the mission trips are meant for everyone at this point in their lives, and I think it’s okay if some are turned down”.
I love going on mission trips. I have always wanted to dedicate a week of service to others. This is why sophomore year I was so eager to apply. Unfortunately, I did not make it. That year, there was an additional trip added due to the record breaking amount of applicants and I decided to go on it. This trip was to Mary Help of Christians. The next year, I applied again for trips, but picked some different options because I wanted to explore service outside of Tampa. Once again, I did not make any of the trips. Senior Olivia Brink and I, along with many others, were both denied of being able to attend mission trips, two years in a row. After discussing this, we found ourselves asking, “How is this fair? What makes someone more qualified than another to help their community?”
Mission Trip leaders are looking for students who will be willing to serve and dedicate everything they can to bettering the community wherever they may go. But, how do they know if a student will make a difference on the trip if they don’t even give them the opportunity to go? Dominican Republic leader, Rebecca Zambrano shared with me her take on the application process. “There are many aspects that are considered, although the essay is an important factor, decisions are not based on the essay alone.” These other decisions that are considered usually relate back to determination, attitude and more. Student leaders are very important in mission trips as well, and they feel similar to the teachers about maturity and focus. Senior and Mississippi Leader, Julia Metzger, shared her pet peeves with me, “I don’t like it when people gossip or talk about how much they miss social media and their phones. This week is supposed to be spent dedicating our time for others. I know we’re all used to having our phones 24/7, but we need to try and make the best out of the week!”
On the other hand, she shared with me some of her favorite moments of mission trips, “One of my favorite things is when we write affirmations. This is when we write a word, paragraph or short sentence about everyone on the trip. This can be something that person did this week that stood out to you, or maybe just something about how you’re glad to be their friend. It’s super fun to open these at the end of the long week and see all the nice things everyones said about you.”
I don’t want to bash mission trips. I know it’s not possible for everyone to receive the trip of their choice. I wish it would be taken into consideration if you have previously been denied and if you never receive your top two choices. I believe everyone in the school has the potential to make an enormous impact in someone’s life, and I just wish more of us were given the opportunity instead of being denied before taking a chance to succeed. I’ve made some of my best memories on these trips, and I would hate others to miss out. I hope these changes can be implemented for future missionaries. I don’t think anyone should ever be denied the right to help others if their heart is in the right place.