Mission-Based Travel at Hill-Murray

Dear Hill-Murray Community,

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every Hill-Murray student could, at some point before graduation, participate in an academic, mission-based, life changing travel experience? Some of my most transformational moments came from going to new places, listening to different perspectives, immersing myself in different cultures and taking a break from my regular routines.

Hill-Murray has a long tradition of engaging students in travel, and we have recently expanded our opportunities. Next summer Father Paolo, and Theology teachers Becky Fandrich and Erin Bourget will lead a pilgrimage to Italy. Not only will they spend time in Rome, they will visit Florence and my favorite place, Assisi.  Subiaco, where St Benedict lived as a hermit for three years, is also on the itinerary.  Having been on a similar trip when I was the Head of School in New York, I know the experience will be meaningful, spiritual and unforgettable for our students, especially as they connect with our Benedictine charism and our Catholic faith.

When I was a principal in Chicago, two priests from Saint Clement and I took a group of middle school students and their parents and spent a week serving the “22 de abril” community in El Salvador.

We worked side-by-side with the local people-  in their school, their medical clinic, their health care facility and on their farm. The focus of our trip was to make meaningful connections between our students and the students living in the “22 de abril” community.

Because the recruitment into gang activity was such a strong force where we were, we supported the community’s programs to reach as many young children as possible. For many in the community, gang activity was the only way out of poverty. I still keep in touch with a few of the students I met while in El Salvador.

My own perspective has been shaped and influenced by my travel experiences, and I care deeply about providing students with opportunities to experience a world beyond the familiar.

In addition to the Italy pilgrimage, we are also offering H-M students a mission trip opportunity to go to De LaSalle Blackfeet School in Browning, Montana this year. Browning is located in one of the poorest counties in the US. Students will learn about Native American culture and spend time with students who attend De LaSalle Blackfeet, a Catholic school for students in grades 4-8.

Our 8th grade is offering a civil rights trip to Memphis, Montgomery and Atlanta. Students will visit the National Civil Rights Museum, which is located in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.  While students can learn about the civil rights movement in school, there’s something special about being at these historically significant places.

It’s not lost on me that these trips are a financial sacrifice for families and I’m committed to examining the accessibility of mission-based travel at Hill-Murray.  In working with teenagers over the last 20 years,  I’ve seen first hand how these kinds of experiences can have a lasting impact – I know they did for me.