For a group of Sumter High School students, it didn't take getting into the Christmas season for them to learn the important trait that "it's better to give than receive."
Instead, it happened through a service-learning project with students who …
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SUMTER HIGH H2O FOR LIFE DONATIONS PAGE
Instead, it happened through a service-learning project with students who they can hardly identify with 1,500 miles away in Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in Latin America.
Four juniors in a college-and-career readiness program at Sumter spoke Friday about how learning that kids in developing countries often lack bathrooms and drinking water in their schools has made them more generous and grateful.
Robert Lancaster, Inga Colclough, Aniya Newkirk and Danesia Carter are among about 25 juniors in the school's Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, program that pushes students with the right work ethic to excel in higher academic courses during their high school years.
Similar to the school's advanced International Baccalaureate program, AVID students are also required to take on a community service project and learn the art of giving back to others.
The link between the Sumter students and those in San Lorenzo, Nicaragua, is a Minnesota-based nonprofit organization, H2O for Life, which provides service-learning opportunities to schools to raise awareness about the global water crisis.
Schools in the U.S. and Canada that support water, sanitation and hygiene education projects with partner schools in the developing world are called H2O for Life schools. There are about 1,683 schools in the network, according to the organization.
Sumter's AVID coordinator, Marie Broadway, passed along the possible service opportunity to AVID teacher Adrian Wilkins. After it was introduced to students, they said they wanted to run with it.
To generate funds to assist projects, students came up with the idea last year to create an AVID school store to sell school supplies - pencils, pens, paper and notebooks - along with chips, candy and other items.
The students said the chips and candy prices are a little cheaper than the school's vending machines, and everybody needs the school supplies when in a pinch.
All money received from store sales goes to H2O projects. The school also has an online donations page through H2O for Life.
Students are able to pick developing world school projects from H2O for Life's website.
When the AVID students became aware that schools in some of the world's poorest countries lack bathrooms and drinking water, they were surprised and felt those projects were worthy to contribute to.
"Out of all the service project choices, I felt that was really something that everybody really needs," Lancaster said.
So far this year, the juniors have helped with two projects in Nicaragua.
Lancaster, 16, said the projects have helped him understand "wants" versus "needs" better and realize how fortunate he is to live in his life, he said.
"I have more than lots of people in the world. So, I want to give back and let them be more blessed than me," Lancaster said. "If I am able to give you something I have, which you don't, I will do it. I would rather give than receive. Also, I feel like everybody should have clean water. That is something we all need, and it's not a 'want.'"
Colclough, also 16, said it helped her realize how much she takes for granted.
"We get mad when we don't get a certain type of shoe, but they are just happy for water," she said. "Then, you can look at yourself and say, 'Wow, I am really being ungrateful.'"
Wilkins, the AVID teacher, said students have been involved with H2O for Life for three years now. Initially, they didn't understand the level of need in other parts of the world. Now, they are full-throttle with the service projects.
"You can tell the students have really bought into the idea," Wilkins said. "that life is bigger than Sumter, South Carolina."
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