In The Schools

Summit's Sydney and Samantha Pearson Among Group of Oak Knoll Students, Alumnae Participating in Home-Building Service Project

From left: Samantha Pearson ’16, Sydney Pearson ’20, Lindley Hall '18, Tietjen Spoor '20, Caroline Hall '20, Valerie Nieves '18, Asher Marie Coates '18 and Kathryn Flanagan ’17. Credits: Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child

SUMMIT, NJ -Hilltop City resident Sydney Pearson -- Class of 2020 -- was part of a group of current and former Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child students that kicked off their summer by building homes and raising spirits in a village near Tijuana, Mexico. 

In addition to Pearson, Lindley Hall ’18, of New Providence; Asher Marie Coates ’18, of New Providence; Valerie Nieves ’18, of Berkeley Heights; Caroline Hall ’20, of New Providence; and Tietjen Spoor ’20, of New Vernon; were joined by alumnae Kathryn Flanagan ’17, of Green Village, and Samantha Pearson ’16, of Summit, in a journey to Mexico last month with the Presbyterian Church at New Providence.

The Church partnered with California-based Amor Ministries during the trip, in which upperclassmen arrived on June 24, building two houses, while the underclassmen arrived six days later, helping to build an additional six houses. All students returned stateside on July 8.

Sign Up for E-News

A typical day for the Oak Knoll students included waking up as early as 5 a.m., arriving at the worksites by 7:30 a.m. and returning to the group’s campsite by 6 p.m. Student accommodations, which included tents without plumbing or electricity, helped them experience firsthand the lifestyle of the people they were helping.

Oak Knoll students also helped run a Vacation Bible School for village children.

Hall, Coates, Nieves, Flanagan and Pearson have embarked on service trips with the church in the past, traveling last year to the Red Lake Nation in Minnesota, where they learned about Native American culture while teaching children, providing maintenance to homes and some much-needed TLC to an antiquated church.

Coates called the Mexico trip a “life-changing experience” that built off her involvement of service at the church and Oak Knoll.

Some of her favorite parts of the trip were bonding with the families she was helping.

“The final part to building a house is the dedication, where we pray for the family and give them a Bible. This experience will stay with me forever because it is so humbling to listen to the family express their gratitude,” she said. “This left a lasting impact on me because I know that the family we built a house for will never forget us and I will never forget them, and knowing that means the world to me.”

Coates acknowledged the challenge of adapting to a different lifestyle during the trip, but said she appreciated being able to disconnect from the world of technology and social media.

“It really allowed me to focus on my relationship with God and bond with my team,” she said, pointing to the times where she and her friends would sit around a campfire or enjoy sunrise runs.

“This left a lasting impact on me because it reminded me not to take things for granted,” she said.

Hall agreed with Coates about the benefits of removing herself from modern conveniences.

“It is drastically different from what I am used to, but I can’t complain. The families that we built the houses for have lived like that for their entire lives,” she said. “Seeing how happy they were without all of the luxuries made me recognize that we don't need any of that to enjoy life.”

Hall called the trip an “amazing” experience that “blew away all of my expectations.” She further noted she was able to communicate with the villagers using the skills she had learned in Spanish classes.

For Pearson, “seeing the kids’ faces light up” was extremely rewarding and among her favorite parts of the trip.

“This trip reminded me how blessed I am to be living under a roof, going to a good school and having food on my plate at every meal when others don’t have those luxuries,” she said. “I realized how lucky I am to have what I do and I am so grateful. I can’t wait to go back.”

Nieves agreed and said she enjoyed interacting with the villagers, especially the children, and that the trip helped her gain invaluable experience working in a team setting.

“I loved connecting with the kids and forming friendships with them. It was a great experience overall. This trip definitely made me realize the hard work that goes into building houses and that every member on a team is valuable,” she said.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Summit Police Blotter

May 29, 2018

5/15 - Sean M. Reidy, 52, of Summit was arrested on a contempt of court warrant out of Summit. Mr. Reidy was able to post bail and released with a pending court date.

5/18 - At 1615 hours a report was taken for a theft from a Springfield Avenue business. The incident occurred at approximately 1031 hours when a white female entered the business and removed a blue Ramy Brook Blouse from a rack.

Bridges Outreach: Miracles in Manhattan

June 17, 2018

Bridges Outreach: Miracles in Manhattan (and elsewhere)

My good friend Joan Olszewski reached out to me the other day to tell me the Friday, June 8, Bridges Outreach run to Manhattan needed volunteers, “Let’s go,” she said.  The lunches were provided by Pimco, a dedicated corporate sponsor of Bridges, so all we needed were some bodies and the love necessary to offer food ...

Video: Point View's Petrides Looks at Media M&As, Fed's Hike Strategy

Point View Wealth Management's Managing Director and Portfolio Manager, John Petrides, live on FOX Business AM discussing M&A in the media industry and the Fed's path to four hikes in 2018:

​​​​​​For more than 25 years, Point View Wealth Management, Inc. has been working with families in Summit and beyond, providing customized portfolio ...

Maximizing Your Portfolio’s Returns -- Beware the Taxman

The old adage in the investment world is that it is not what you make, but what you keep that counts.  Investors often overlook the ultimate deflator of portfolio returns – the taxman. An astute global asset allocation should be the number one priority for investors.  However, there are preferred ways to distribute this asset allocation over the spectrum of taxable and ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 16

Summer is in the air, and the latest episode of AtlantiCast is ready to help you enjoy some fun outdoors while staying safe! This week’s episode opens with tips for sunscreen usage from Atlantic Health System’s Chief Medical and Academic Officer, Dr. Jan Schwarz-Miller. You’ll also learn about how Atlantic Health System is advancing the future of health care through ...

Video: In The Zone with Christa Anderson

A must watch for anyone considering renovations, here is a recent interview that I conducted -- on my HomeTowne TV Show called “Are You Ready for Life?” -- with Christa Anderson, City of Summit Zoning Officer, to discuss the nuances within the variance process.

I asked Christa to shed some insight into the approval process, explain why it’s necessary, and ...

Hello, Neighbors

Hi, Summit families!

My name is Betsy Stoeber and I’ve been the owner and director at the specialized learning center Brain Balance of Summit since 2011. I first encountered Brain Balance the year before we opened as a parent. My own son participated in our innovative program at the center in Norwalk, CT, to address a number of learning challenges.

Traveling there three times per week ...