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High School Students Embarking for Ecuador

The school-sponsored trip is designed to teach the students decision-making skills in a far-off destination.

Nine Ramapo-Indian Hills students will depart the comfort of their communities this July for an early, Amazonian exercise in adult decision making.

The students will leave July 2 for a trip to Ecuador organized by Ramapo social studies teacher Brian McGrath, who says that the unique conditions of the Third World endeavor will put their leadership skills to the test.

“From the time we arrive at JFK [International Airport], the students are given all the money we have for the budget. It’s their job to make sure that we have all the proper accommodations along the way,” he said.

Though he and Indian Hills teacher Lauren Lewandowski will be on hand with a list of transportation, food, and lodgings pre-assessed for risk, he said, the students will shoulder the decision making throughout the trip, giving the juniors and seniors-to-be a real world experience in navigating foreign terrain on their own.

“The thing that makes this unique is students, while we’re away, are truly in charge of what we do on a day-to-day basis,” McGrath said.

The itinerary for ten-day trip includes a day of acclimation when they arrive, three days in the heart of the Amazon rain forest, and time volunteering at a local school, where the students will likely work with students and help with building construction.

McGrath, who is leaving the district after this year, has planned the trip for the last year along with World Challenge, a company that helps schools organize overseas trips.

An enthusiastic traveler himself, McGrath said that the destination makes the learning experience of the trip two-fold, giving students both the decision making skills that come with traveling independently anywhere in the world, and the cultural lessons that come from embracing a country facing different socio-economic issues.

“Aside from the leadership, communication, and budgeting, I think it’s the cultural experience. You can get that almost anywhere you go in the world,” he said.

“It can be a culture shock to go somewhere different and see how differently people live there. It gives them a more global view, to see how things are interconnected and how people around the world live their lives.”

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