Features Magazine Volume 69, Issue 1

Amigos de las Américas

“The AMIGOS program was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,’’ Junior Ryan Monasch said. Monasch spent the majority of her summer with a host family in the Dominican Republic, while volunteering beside local residents. Students interested in the AMIGOS program can attend an informational meeting this year at Las Lomas. As long as you have taken Spanish through Spanish two, you qualify for the program.

AMIGOS summer immersion programs send high school students to Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, and the Dominican Republic for four weeks to live with a host family. The main focus of the outreach in the Dominican Republic is encouraging positive change in the communities through sports and day camps.

 Not only does the AMIGOS program provide students the opportunity to serve less fortunate communities, but it also immerses students in the language and culture of spanish speaking countries such as the Dominican Republic. All Las Lomas Juniors who participated in the program went to the Dominican Republic. Students are not tourists, but are provided with countless opportunities to learn about different aspects of the community culture from the perspective of a local. 

When signing up for the AMIGOS program, students commit to weeks of training and monthly meetings. “For training, I attended meetings that were a few hours long to prepare for things like health procedures,” Junior Amelia Metcalf said. “When we arrived in the Dominican Republic, we were trained on country specifics for a couple of days before going into our host family’s community.” Metcalf took four years of Spanish leading up to her project, but preparation only requires two years of Spanish class to ensure students the ability to communicate with local residents.

Daily life while in the Dominican Republic included community outreach, forming connections with locals, and learning the culture through the lives of host family members. “Every weekday we ran day camps for the kids in the community, where we led activities centered around themes like communication, youth leadership, and gender equality through sports,” Metcalf said. “I think this was one of the most rewarding parts for me because the kids were so open to new ideas and were excited to interact with people with such a different culture.”

The AMIGOS program provided another perspective of life, by giving a first-hand experience in a new country, culture, and community. “Going to the Dominican Republic has made me realize that although we [the United States] are a very successful country, we don’t connect as much as other countries in certain ways,” Metcalf said. “People in the Dominican Republic make time for each other and are incredibly down to earth and welcoming to new experiences and cultures, which is something that I believe the United States is lacking.”

Junior Avery Simkin-England said, “Amigos has been hands down the most humbling, eve-opening experience of my life.”