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Pittsburg High School students take part in a Global Glimpse program this summer. Teacher Erick Valenzuela and 11 students worked alongside families in Nicaragua for three weeks. (courtesy of Erick Valenzuela)

At least a dozen people have a really great answer to the timeless question: What did you do for summer vacation?

Teacher Erick Valenzuela and 11 Pittsburg High students traveled to Nicaragua over break as part of the Global Glimpse program.

Valenzuela and three of the PHS kids stayed in Matagalpa, while the others spread out to other cities, along with other students from various U.S. schools. Each delegation spent three weeks in its city location and studied a variety of topics, including politics, culture, poverty, history, and aid and development.

There was also plenty of hands-on work, including repairing and painting students' desks, chairs and tables, building two rooms in an area utilized as a clinic, completing a new latrine (there was no city water or sewage system in the rural communities), patching holes in the roof of the classrooms, and fixing holes in cement floors. And, they did all that work for about $500 from a pool of their own money.

"The trip did not disappoint," Valenzuela said. "It was an incredible experience not only traveling in Nicaragua, but especially to witness how a three-week journey can transform students.

"It was raw and sometimes uncomfortable, right down to the cold showers, unfamiliar meals, and, yes, even lack of access to our cell phones and computers. But, it was an incredible and worthwhile program."

The teacher said there were plenty of good memories but his favorite experience was the "living on a $1 a day" challenge.

"This is one of the challenges set up by the organization. Each student was placed with a family in a rural part of the country and spent the day living as they do. Their whole day, including meals, could not exceed $1 for 24 hours. "Even our morning showers were done by bucket and ladle."

The students helped their host families in several capacities like cooking, baking, weeding, tilling (by hand) and prepping soil for planting.

"We were all taken by how simplistic all of their lives were with little desires for anything more. I think it was one of those moments of the trip where the students realized just how materialistic a society we live in and how most, if not all, of it is completely unnecessary to make us happy."

Valenzuela said the experience the students had was "immeasurable."

The participating students (and their host cities) were: In Esteli, Ivanna DeAnda, Nancy Nguyen, Cynthia Romero and Jerrel Vison. In Leon: Roxanne Avila, Mercedes Boyes, Beatriz Figueroa and Rashon Rogers. And, in Matagalpa: Damita Cabezud, Makenzie Gasca and Sam Whipple.

Figueroa, Gasca and Whipple were selected as Global Glimpse ambassadors to PHS. They will now help mentor next summer's delegation of students and assist in planning and instructing the pre-trip workshops.

During the group's recent final workshop, Valenzuela was "impressed with how much more aware they (had) become about the world around them and their knowledge of the impact (positive and negative) their actions have on a global scale. The phrase: 'How to think and act like a global citizen' will not soon be forgotten by them. I'm hopeful it will stay with them for a lifetime."

For those interested in donating to the school's Global Glimpse fund, call 925-473-2390 or email evalenzuela@pittsburg.k12.ca.us. For more information on the program, visit http://www.globalglimpse.org/

TAKE A BOW: It was a night of earned applause and inspirational stories for the Antioch Unified School District.

During the fourth annual Mary Allan Fellows award event, Erin Clark (district Teacher of the Year) took the top prize. She is a first-grade teacher at Sutter Elementary.

Also winning a Fellows award were Brian Eyer, who teaches third grade at Marsh Elementary, and Christie Steiner, a fifth-grade instructor at Mission Elementary.

Others in the spotlight are finalists Lisa Culcasi, Sutter Elementary; Mary Frew, Sutter; Pat Hambly, Lone Tree Elementary; and Carin Pantell, London Elementary. And, nominees: Kelly Boland, Lone Tree; Kari Carlson, Sutter; Toni Crouch, London; Marnie Hassig, London; Lesley Hauenstein, Turner; Barbara Holmes, Turner; and Ashley Wilkins, Marsh Elementary.

Fellows winners each receive $1,000 for professional use in the classroom and $250 for personal use.

During the awards event, held at Lone Tree Golf course, Allan spoke about each of the teachers. It was an impressive -- and vivid -- recount of each of the Antioch educators' classroom moments.

The foundation's board of directors work year-round to help celebrate teachers and raise money for a variety of education-related projects and programs in Antioch. For more information, call 925-978-9331, email davenaro@comcast.net or visit 925-978-9331 www.asef.us

If you have school news to share, contact Trine Gallegos at trineg@att.net. You can also reach Judith Prieve at jprieve@bayareanewsgroup.com. Please note: Trine also works part-time with the Antioch Unified School District.

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