SUMMIT, NJ — Five students from Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child, including Isabelle Weldon of Westfield, spent part of their summer building classrooms and a playground for children in Guatemala. For two of the students, the trip was an opportunity to build on their own foundation. 

Rising seniors Isabelle Kenny and Christina (Nina) Maurizi, both of Summit, were joined by rising sophomores Elsa Maurizi  of Summit, Lily Schiffman of Bernardsville and Weldon on a journey to the village of Santa Cruz del Quiche in Guatemala.

For the elder Maurizi and Kenny, it was a return trip, as the two students served with School of the World in Guatemala last year. The two thoroughly enjoyed their experience and were able to recruit their classmates to return with them through presentations during the school’s annual Service Day and hosting interest meetings.

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Oak Knoll students journeyed to Guatemala through the organization’s Student Service Learning Program. In addition to helping to build a playground and four classrooms, they also raised more than $17,000 toward building materials and supplies for the Eorm Canton Pacaja Segundo School, an 11-classroom school that serves 269 students, according to School the World.

Nina Maurizi said among her favorite aspects was the personal touch they were able to provide by painting murals in the classrooms they helped build. She also enjoyed the interaction with the children.

“They were always so happy and energetic, greeting us every morning when we arrived at the community and even helping us work throughout the day,” she said. “Being there with them every day made our hard work worth it, and seeing their reactions to the finished product on the last day was so special; something I'll never forget.”

Their last day featured a special dedication, including ribbon cuttings for each classroom and the new playground. 

Nina Maurizi said she also enjoyed, as a returning student, the opportunity to reacquaint herself with the community she and Kenny helped last year, and to see the fruits of their previous labors.

“It was amazing. My handprint and initials were still on the outside of the school with the rest of my group members and it made me so proud to see our classroom actually in use,” she said.

Weldon, enjoying her first trip with the organization, said she was grateful for the opportunity to serve.

“It was very interesting and an eye-opening experience for me. It was hard work, but worth it in the end to see how happy and grateful the community was,” she said.

Nina Maurizi, noting that last year she and Kenny were the only New Jerseyans on the trip, hopes to spread the word even more about the joy she and her classmates were able to bring to children in Guatemala.

“I can’t say enough about how amazing the organization is,” she said.