He's helping build a school a half a world away.
Austin Shission, a junior at Wyoming Area Secondary Center, has started a school supplies drive for a school in Masaya, Nicaragua.
From Dec. 28, 2011 to Jan 11, 2012, Shission traveled to Nicaragua as part of the Mission of Peace, a United Methodist-sponsored experience for high school youth.
While there he helped build homes and worked on a project to build a school. While at the project, I found out about the need for school supplies, he said.
The school, which has 120 students, started with grades K to 5 and recently opened grades 6 to 11. He said next year 12th grade will open.
He worked on Project Chacocente, a non-profit, integrating program that aims to transform people, not just give them food and/or housing. It helps move families from the city dump of Managua, Nicaragua, to the clean air and fertile soil of Masaya, where the people learn skills for living independently.
His said his mission work in Nicaragua was fulfilling.
It was one of the most life changing experiences I've ever had, he said.
First we traveled a little bit to see the landscape, he said. And we interacted with the people. Mission work is not always about hands on work, putting bricks down. It's about meeting people, getting to know them.
Shission speaks enough Spanish to have a simple conversation, but he picked up a great deal more while he was there.
Despite it being sponsored by the United Methodist Church, he said his group was there to do good, not to spread religion.
That wasn't what it was all about, he said. We did go to churches every night, but we weren't preaching or anything like that.
A return trip is planned for February, and Shission hopes to take a quantity of school supplies back for the school.
Shission got his urge to travel from his mother, who traveled on a missionary trip to Haiti.
I've always wanted to go there, he said. But I got this opportunity to go to Nicaragua and I jumped on it.
Items needed for the classrooms include crayons, play-dough, glue sticks, water colors, construction paper, pencils, whiteboard markers, stickers, pencil erasers, scissors, math flash cards and pencils.
Items needed for science labs are microscopes, test tubes, flasks, Erlenmeyer flasks, beakers, funnels, Buchner funnels, separating filters, pipettes, Bunsen burners, thermometers, forceps, tripods, filter paper and graduated cylinders. The marching band needs bass, floor and snare drums, tom toms, cajas, gulro, bell xylophone, trumpet, coronet, drumsticks and bass drumsticks.
The music room needs Yamaha DGX230 keyboards, bass guitars, acoustic guitar and amps, drums, microphones, mic stands, 15-inch and 18-inch speakers, bongos, 15-foot cables and flutes.
The computer lab needs desks, chairs, file cabinets, blank CDs, fans, webcams, projectors, mouse pads, mouse controllers, ethernet cables, extension cords and modems.
The sports program needs volleyballs, soccer balls, volleyball nets, baseballs, reference cones, youth baseball gloves and mitts, boxing gloves, stopwatches, reference flags, first aid kits, tennis balls, whistles, youth aluminum baseball bats, shin guards and tennis rackets.
For now, Shission got permission to set up a collection box in each of Wyoming Area's schools. But he hopes to expand it to other districts as well.
I just want to make it easier for anyone in the Valley to donate, he said.
Even after his next trip, the collections will continue.
I'll keep doing it until we get everything they need.
Shission set up a Facebook page, Nicaragua School Collection, to keep an updated supply list and a list of drop off locations. For more information, email Nicaraguaschoolcollection@gmail.com.