A community in southern Costa Rica depends on the clean water that flows from a biological reserve in the rainforest. Last month, they put their faith in Michael Averill '22.
Averill planted bamboo plants, lots and lots of bamboo plants. Working side-by-side with a student volunteer from France, Averill spent four weeks tending to the needs of the biological reserve. They planted bamboo, maintained the hiking trails, and protected the region's primary water source. When the pandemic scuttled Averill's international travel plans last year, the senior Bonner sought a Spanish-speaking immersion experience this summer tied to service and environmental action. United Planet sent him to the rainforest.
United Planet connects volunteers with service opportunities in more than 30 countries. Annually, the nonprofit organization offers one full scholarship to a college student participating in the national Bonner network. More than 60 colleges and universities are associated the Bonner program; Averill scored the scholarship.
The dual major in Spanish and political science sought a Spanish speaking country to put his fluency to the test. Specifically, he wanted to be in Central America. Averill is exploring climate change and its impact on migration. It's an interest he picked up at high school soccer practice.
"They came to my school not knowing the language or understanding our culture. We played soccer together, and my Spanish teacher encourage me to help them."
During Averill's freshman year of high school in Saugerties, NY, nearly ten students from Central American countries migrated to his town with their families. Several of the them joined Averill on the soccer team. Averill enjoyed Spanish class, and with his teacher's encouragement, he started practicing with his new teammates. Averill was improving his Spanish, his new friends were learning English.
They didn't win any championships over four years, but they all graduated and passed their Regents exams together, which was more gratifying to Averill than a sectional title. In fact, informal Spanish lessons on the soccer field led Averill to pursue Spanish in college. It also led him to Siena, and those friendships ignited an interest in politics, specifically policy issues on immigration. They also started Averill on his path to what's next.
"I chose Siena because I knew that its Franciscan tradition and commitment to service were elements I wanted in my college experience. Yet, I never expected how deeply Siena's mission would shape me as an individual, providing me with incredible opportunities that have resulted in unforgettable experiences, all while pursuing an academic track that directly engages with local and global communities."
Michael Averill '22
Averill has already been accepted into the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Fellowship program at the University of Notre Dame. Beginning next fall, Averill will spend two years teaching in an under-resourced Catholic school while also earning a tuition-free master of education degree from Notre Dame (Averill's considering a career in higher education).
Averill will likely be teaching Spanish in the Fellowship program at one of 40 potential communities around the country. Most of the fellows will be teaching for the first time. Of course, Averill got started at soccer practice