Taylor T. Bern

Mission trips open the eyes of Senior CLASS Award candidates

by Taylor T. Bern September 26, 2011 in Volleyball


When Sarah Havel first traveled to Honduras in 2010, she had a simple goal.

“I went in expecting to bring a smile to people’s faces,” said Havel, a senior middle blocker at College of Charleston.

What she didn’t expect was for the experience to change the way she approached life as a student-athlete. Havel is one of many candidates for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award who have contributed to communities across the globe and taken the lessons back to their campus and their teammates.

The list also includes volleyball candidates Tanya Schmidt (Santa Clara) and Kelsea Seymour (Southern Mississippi) and football candidates Emmanuel Acho (Texas) and Matt Reynolds (BYU).

Schmidt, a middle blocker with a 3.97 GPA, has lived with families abroad the past three summers as she’s worked with the local community, including teaching English to elementary school children in Cusco, Peru, in 2010. For Schmidt, the opportunity to immerse herself in another country was an easy decision.

“I enjoy meeting and learning from people of other cultures,” Schmidt said. “Also, I have been blessed with so much; I feel a responsibility to give to and share with others.”

Like Schmidt, Seymour has made trips each of the past three years, going to the Dominican Republic (2009), Mexico (2010) and Peru (2011). The trips included bringing supplies to children and aiding with their medical care.

Seymour said her first trip, to the Dominican Republic, was shocking because of the level of poverty that people lived in. But it also opened her eyes to just how amazing people could be despite their living conditions.

“I was so surprised that even in all of that poverty the people were always smiling and welcoming and thankful that we were there,” Seymour said.

Unlike the other candidates, Reynolds’ time abroad was closer to a move than a trip as he served a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Munich, Germany.

While he was there, Reynolds assisted people in his community with various service projects while spreading his message of faith.

Similarly, Acho’s trips abroad were undertaken with a clear goal. And in his case that was to help provide medical care to people in his parents’ native country of Nigeria.

Acho and his family — his older brother, Sam, was a Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award finalist last year — go each summer on medical mission trips, during which they assist approximately 40 doctors who attend to villagers who may only see a doctor once a year.

Havel put herself in a similar situation with a medical mission to Honduras. As doctors at makeshift clinics on the outskirts of town tried to take care of everyone they could, Havel was with them step-for-step, doing whatever was needed.

The language barrier was difficult to break down, but now when she’s on the court she can always lean on that experience.

“It’s changed me because I’ve realized how much we need teamwork,” Havel said. “That was a big thing there, working with the translators, getting a message across. Communication is huge.”

For better or worse, these candidates can’t forget the sights and sounds of their trips across the world. Some beautiful, some heart breaking, everything is now a part of their lives and will influence them moving forward.

“Rather than answering my questions about issues of justice, solidarity, and my place within our collective global responsibility,” Schmidt said, “the experience left me with more questions.”

And that’s the eternal struggle inherent in the search for knowledge. The more you seek an answer, the more questions you’ll find. But that doesn’t make the journey any less rewarding.