To prepare for the trip, Tech Valley students learned to sing the Haitian national anthem -- in Creole. "That made a big difference," Penniman says, when students met community groups for the first time. "It showed that we were ready to learn from the community." Penniman took pride in watching her students "walk with humility" as they went about their work, which became a true partnership with the people of Cormier. Already, the Haitian community is considering which project they might tackle together with Tech Valley students next year.
It may take years to know how the American students have been affected by their 21st century learning experience. Will they grow up to be more creative, resourceful problem solvers? More concerned about issues that affect people in places far from their home? "I expect they will think more about the impact of their actions," Penniman predicts. "How will the choices they make in the future affect not just themselves or their immediate community, but the rest of the world? I have reason to be hopeful about that."