Local students prepare for annual Rotary World Service Project trip

MANISTEE — There are certain life experiences that never get old no matter how many times a person does it.

Nine students from Manistee High School and Manistee Catholic Central will be traveling to Los Alcarrizos, Dominican Republic from Jan. 27 to February 3 to take part in the Rotary World Service Project. (File photo)

Nine students from Manistee High School and Manistee Catholic Central will be traveling to Los Alcarrizos, Dominican Republic from Jan. 27 to February 3 to take part in the Rotary World Service Project. (File photo)

For Manistee Rotary members Daryl Pieczynski and Mitch Deisch they never tire watching how the Rotary World Service Project trip to the Dominican Republic changes the lives of students who take part in the annual event. Deisch has been on the past 11 trips and Pieczynski the previous seven. They said seeing that proverbial light bulb go on in the students makes it all worthwhile.

“We are taking five students from Manistee High School this year and four from Manistee Catholic Central,” said Pieczynski. “We are going to be down there this year from Jan. 27 to Feb. 3 and will be going to the same place we went to for the last two years which is Los Alcarrizos, Dominican Republic. We have a great relationship with a group down there that is called the Lighthouse Group.”

Pieczynski said the trip gives the local students an incredible perspective of how little people in some countries have compared to those who live in the United States.

“We take a lot of things for granted here and that is especially true for the students,” said Pieczynski. “When you go to the Dominican Republic and interact with their children down there the message really hits home. We just take little things like Nerf footballs for the kids down there and you would think they won the lottery by the expression on their faces.”

Piecynski said it possible to actually see the growth in some of the local students from when they arrive until they finally leave.

“It was something I always wanted to do as it is a real life changing experience for me,” he said. “Mitch has taken both his son and his daughter and this year will be her second trip, so he sees great value in it. When you listen to some of our kids stories on the way back on how it has really impacted them —it is a very rewarding experience for them and something they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

Those students who are making the trip this year are Manistee High School’s Clemens Tolstrup, Amanda Deisch, Shane Harrigan, Billie Gajewski and Mercedes Forsyth. Going from Manistee Catholic Central are Barry Seymour, Mason Callensen, Emily Golembiewski, and Elizabeth Nelson. Also going with the local group is former Manistee Catholic Central student and current Northwood University student Cam Toczynski.

“Cam has been going for the past three years and really looks forward to it every year,” said Pieczynski. “He takes time out of his schedule to go and not too long ago we had a meeting with the students and Cam told them he feels that anyone not going on this trip is missing out on a great life changing experience.”

Over the years there have been many times where more than one family member has made the trip.

“We always hope that some of the siblings will see what their brother or sister did and do the same,” said Pieczynski.

The Manistee and Benzie Rotary clubs team up with the Gaylord Rotary Club, which has been going on the Rotary World Service Project for the past 21 years to the Dominican Republic.

“That is how we basically got involved was through the  Gaylord Club as they had so many projects going on that they asked other clubs if they were interested and we had a group from here who wanted to go,” said Pieczynski.

What makes the trip unique in another respect is the students have to pay their own way, which costs about $1,600.

“This is not a trip for these students as that $1,600 doesn’t include anything they spend down there on souvenirs or clothes they might want to buy,” said Pieczynski. “They do it through their own fundraising and writing letters to family, friends and businesses. Students have actually paid for their trips just by writing the campaign letters.”

Pieczynski said the students are going for all the right reasons.

“We have a really great group this year and they want to make a difference,” he said. “The Dominican people have nothing, but they all are so friendly.”

Another thing they have going is Pizza Hut has volunteered to do a fundraiser for them from 4 to 8 p.m. on Jan. 8. Piecyznski said anyone wanting to make a donation is more than welcome to help the students.



Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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