By Melissa Garcia
DENVER, Colo. (CBS4) – A group of students from Manual High School are sharing what they learned in a 10-day trip to Cambodia. The group of five students and four staff members returned to Colorado from the trip on Sunday.
Administrators said the teens spent almost a year learning about the country and preparing for travel before their trip. Students received a $25,000 grant from the McCracken Foundation, in memory of former Manual High School teacher, Jerry McCracken.
On Saturday, the students spoke with CBS4, saying learning about schools in Cambodia had been an eye-opening experience.
More than four-decades after the genocide that historians say killed nearly two million people in Cambodia, the group of high school juniors and seniors went abroad to see how education is impacting communities across the country.
“We’re seeing a whole country that suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Chris DeRemer, Manual High School’s Dean of Instruction, who led the teens in their discovery.
“Watching them experience it was just phenomenal,” he said.
“It made me want to do more projects and get involved into greater stuff than just paper and pencil,” added Jennifer Serrano, a Manual High School junior.
“I think travel is important because it just opens up your whole world,” said Sarina Montoya, a social worker at Manual High School.
“Traveling to Cambodia, it kind of gave me that chance to jump out of that box and realize that there’s a bigger world around me,” said Ashley Garcia, another junior at Manual High School.
The teens spent many hours traveling, sight-seeing and meeting other kids from across the globe.
“There are problems, and there are people in need so much more than the problems that we have right now here,” Garcia said.
Snapshots showed the group’s interactions in the foreign classrooms. Some Cambodian classrooms showed the effects of poverty, while other classroom environments there were thriving.
“That international school was state of the art. Everyone was working on science fair projects and doing curriculum very similar to what we’re doing here,” DeRemer said. He also stated that the biggest takeaway from the trip applies not only to schools in Cambodia, but also to those in the United States.
“It’s just important that we customize education to communities more in America,” Garcia said. “To make sure that every student thrives.”
The students are planning to make a presentation to grant donors and then to the school and their community.