Team Arizona:

Jeanelle Hernandez – Student Reflection

Grade 11

Photo: Jeanelle poses for a photo while conducting a service project

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“The service trip to Arizona impacted me in more ways than one, in too many ways to simply focus on one area. The scenery impacted me the most. I recall what it felt like to be in Arizona under the beautiful sky. Such illustrations in my head could mean looking up, bright and early in the morning before morning chores or at the breakfast table with my new favorite people. I also think about looking up during the day, when the sun is up and the sky is clear. It is striking when it’s daytime but you can see the moon so vividly in the distance. Such visions also include the evening sky when the sun was setting over the mountains and I would utter to whoever was in listening distance “look at the sky”. At night, I would look at the sky filled with stars and all I would think is that each and everyone one of us are made of those beautiful white circles in the sky. I would think of all the ways in which we are made of something greater than ourselves, greater than the words we assert, greater than the actions we take.


I would look into the night sky and I would think of my friend Laura, who we lost recently.  I say we because I didn’t just lose her, the school lost her, the world lost one of their good ones, her family lost her. I would look at the night sky and think of her because in a way it was the night sky that made me ponder, the night sky made me believe that maybe I did not lose her, maybe we did not lose her, maybe she’s always with us and we just have to shut out all the noise, turn our phones off, and look into the distance at something beautiful, something real and pure and we will feel her presence. I would feel her presence if I did such things but I wouldn’t be weakened by it. I would be strengthened by the knowledge that she stands beside me and she lives within all that I do regardless of my inability to see to her, touch her, feel her. Arizona brought out this happiness in me, this happiness that I thought I lost when I lost Laura a month and 22 days prior to my arrival at Arizona. What Arizona really did was put me in a better place and this enabled me to do so much more and realize so much more.


Prior to takeoff I was convinced opening up to anyone really, was just not worth it, if at any point the ones you love the most can be snatched from you. If at any point this type of pain that consumes you, that keeps you up at night in tears, this pain that makes you want to stay in bed and give up on school, on your goals and aspirations, could just take over at anytime. I figured it all just wasn’t worth it. Prior to takeoff finding a purpose everyday was non-existent and Arizona created a new purpose. The experiences, the conversations, the activities, the work we did, and the stories I was moved by helped me find the purpose that I thought no longer existed. While in Arizona I found myself not deprived of pain, not deprived of fear, not deprived of all the things that I now know strengthen me. While in Arizona I found myself not deprived of all that but I found myself able to act, able to speak, able to engage in, able to be taken away, and that is courage. So I guess I can add courage to the list of things my service trip to Arizona gave me. It did not take away the fears that formally restricted me but it enabled me to act in its presence.


My service trip to Arizona allowed me to stay up until morning, which of course was not advised by our teachers, but I was just engaged in conversation with my peers. Arizona allowed us all to grow closer to one another and build bonds that I believe can never really be shattered, altered, or broken fully. Arizona allowed me to discuss my fears, my confusion, my uncertainties in an environment that was new and safe; An environment which encouraged mental, physical, and spiritual growth. We grew closer, we grew to understand each other, we allowed ourselves to feel something truly blissful, and just the act of being that content may have scared me but it didn’t restrict me.


My service trip to Arizona helped me distinguish the difference between temporary and permanent. The service trip to Arizona brought me to realize that there is strength in the stories that construct us into the people we are and the world can be forever altered if we all come together and share those stories. Arizona gave me happiness, courage, strength, realization, purpose, valor, inspiration and what feels like a never-ending list of nouns.”