This February, when most Westwood High School students will be using their vacation time to hang out with their friends around town, Spanish teacher Katelyn Testa will be taking 19 students to Peru to visit historic sites, see the culture firsthand and spend time at an impoverished elementary school.
“Peru is just amazing,” said Testa, the energetic seventh year Westwood High teacher. “I told the kids, ‘this opportunity might not come up again.’”
Which is one of the main reasons many of the students decided to go on this trip.
“Peru seems really different and interesting,” said Izzy Donabed, a sophomore going on the trip. “It’s different than going to France or Spain because it’s more difficult to get to Peru and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
They are looking forward to seeing Machu Picchu, one of the major pieces of Inca civilization that survived the Spanish Conquest in the late 16th century. One fascinating fact is that while locals knew about the site, it didn’t become known internationally until 1911.
“I am most excited to see Machu Picchu because it seems like it will be really pretty,” said Meaghan Philbin, a sophomore going on the trip.
This trip has been in the organizing stages for quite some time. Testa had previously taken students to Spain on a few different trips and wanted to do something different. She went to Peru in April and “did everything the kids will do” to test out the trip. A guide will meet the group when they arrive in Peru and will be with them 24 hours a day to show them all the sites. The trip will last eight days.
“I was really excited in going when I heard about the trip,” senior Asmani Adhav said. “I can’t see myself going to Peru on my own, and this opportunity presented itself.”
Added senior Patrick Gardner, “Going to Spain or other parts of Europe is common.”
One important aspect of the trip will be when the students go to an elementary school to volunteer with the students one day. The students there come from much poorer backgrounds than Westwood High students are used to, so they will be collecting clothes and school supplies to donate when they arrive.
“Each student is going to dedicate one carry-on to stuff for the school,” Testa said.
They will be looking to collect and donate warm clothes such as coats and sweaters, and school supplies such as markers, crayons and notebooks.
“I’m super excited to see how their school system works,” Adhav said. “It’ll be inspirational when we see them happy with what they have.”
Other activities planned on the trip include going to the beach, visiting an animal farm, learning about weaving your own clothes and learning about cultivating your own food.
A little less than three months until they head to Peru, and they can’t wait to go.
“When the trip started [being planned] none of the kids knew each other,” Testa said. “They’re really coming together. It’s pretty nice to see.”