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Antioch High School junior Amanda Vistalli spent two weeks in Costa Rica helping with service projects. (Photo Courtesy of Amanda Vistalli)

It was an invitation she couldn't pass up, and she oh-so-happily accepted.

This summer, Amanda Vistalli spent two weeks in Costa Rica to "learn about the culture and be a positive representative of our country by giving back (via) service projects."

The Antioch High junior helped with projects such as cleaning, painting a huge mural at a school and planting trees and plants.

Before going to Central America, Vistalli had to a complete a lengthy application process, which included recommendation letters from teachers and close friends, and an interview conducted by the People to People organization.

She said despite the large amount of community service work, she was thrilled to be there.

"We were able to help so many people there ... It was such an amazing experience. We had tons of fun and did a lot of activities, such as white water rafting, surfing and zip lining through a rainforest and over a river."

Naturally, there were plenty of good memories.

"I hope to become a teacher, so my favorite part of the trip was being able visit the schools and orphanage, interact with the kids in a positive way, and donate the supplies we brought.

"They were so excited we were coming," she said, adding that although she spent just a few hours with the children, "I made wonderful connections."

In addition, she (along with the 34 other high school students) played "muddy" soccer at every school they visited and "that was a blast." And, on her 16th birthday, she learned to surf.


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Vistalli also enjoyed staying with a local family for a couple days. "They treated us just like family, and we made several local food dishes."

The high school delegation hailed from various states. "It was such a great experience to make so many new friends from all over."

Moved by her experience, she said the 14-day trip made an impact on her.

"I traveled to some of the poorest parts of Costa Rica and it broke my heart seeing the way some of these people live; it had me in tears. It made me more grateful for everything I am able to have and everything my parents provide for me. Being able to have an impact on the people we saw and the children we visited made me happy."

After she graduates from AHS in 2016, Vistalli plans to attend a four-year college and pursue a teaching career.

THE CURTAIN RISES: Rising Stars Boosters wants sponsors to "ensure the future of student enrichment in theater arts at Heritage High School for years to come."

As the Brentwood school's theater department marks its 10-year anniversary, the group hopes to continue to "enhance the progress" of this award-winning program. A news release states the mission of Rising Stars is to provide funding, support, help with opportunities and activities for the students, and "foster goodwill and communication between school and community."

For more information on how to become a sponsor, visit http://libertyunion.schoolwires.net/site/Default.aspx?PageID=2625, or email hhsrisingstarsboosters@gmail.com. Membership is open to all, and volunteers are always welcome. For more info, call 925-634-0037 or email fallowsc@libertyuhsd.k12.ca.us.

Contact Trine Gallegos at trineg@att.net. Note: Trine also does community outreach for Antioch High.