‘These Honduran students changed my life’

Local nonprofit works with foreign robotics team.

Seven High School students from Honduras participated in the FIRST Global Robotics Competition in Washington, D.C., with the help of Dayton-based nonprofit Shoulder to Shoulder.

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Shoulder to Shoulder’s 27-year mission has been to help bring sustainable health, nutrition and education services to the people of rural Honduras.

While in the U.S. the students also had the opportunity to spend time with students at Jacob Coy Middle School in Beavercreek as well as meet other local robotics teams.

The Honduran robotics team developed a connection with the Beavercreek students when Beavercreek middle school Spanish teacher Angel Allen had the opportunity to visit Honduras and tour the Good Shepherd Bilingual School as well as Santo Tomas Aquino High School, in Camasca, Honduras.

When Allen found out that the team would be in the U.S. for the competition she saw it as an opportunity for her own students.

“These Honduran students changed my life. I was able to see how they are happy with so little. I want my Beavercreek students to find value out of the small things and recognize that you can create your own happiness,” said Allen.

With the help of Shoulder to Shoulder, local fundraising and local families willing to host the students and their teachers the team was able to make the detour to Beavercreek.

Host mom Lynn Hay said that her daughter is part of Allen’s eighth-grade Spanish class and really wanted to participate as a host family.

“My daughter got the opportunity to see life though their eyes. She got to know about them, their families, their culture and lifestyle. If you have kids, it’s definitely worth opening them up to experiences like this. They are so used their lifestyle, and all that matters is the next new phone. They don’t know what it’s like to live when you are taking showers out of a bucket,” said Hay.

Hay said she was so impressed with the Honduran students and all the barriers they had to overcome to get to the point that they were.

She said that they recounted a story about a representative from the robotics competition who traveled to Honduras for a week to give the team a bit of instruction on the competition kit.

“He didn’t speak Spanish so he had to communicate with them through an interpreter. He tried to explain how to use the controller by telling them it was just like using a PlayStation. The interpreter had to explain that these kids had never seen a PlayStation,” said Hay.

The team traveled to Washington, D.C., on July 16-18 for the robotics competition. The Olympics-style robotics challenge invites one team from each country across the globe with the goal of inspiring a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Each group of students is given a kit and is asked to solve a set of challenges using only the tools and parts provided to them.

Team student representative Melissa Lemus said that Shoulder to Shoulder not only helped them financially but also with encouragement. She said they had never done anything with robotics before and didn’t think that they could do this.

At the competition in Washington, D.C., Lemus said that she was surprised how differently each team approached the project even though they all had the same materials to work with.

All and all she said that the experience was very positive one and was amazed by the opportunities this country had to offer. “This is an experience that will stay with me and have a positive impact on the rest of my life,” Lemus said.

Contact this contributing writer at Erica.Harrah@woh.rr.com.

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