Posted on Tuesday, April 12, 2016
This spring, Westminster College was represented in the Dominican Republic by a body of alumni, students, faculty, administration, and retired employees, who served, witnessed, and grew together.
“Traveling as a mission team means that you really get to know each other well – in many senses, you do become family,” said Dr. Joel Postema, professor of Spanish, describing this spring’s trip, marking his seventh year traveling with a mission group to Sabaneta de Yásica.
The trip to the Dominican is a Christian partnership to “make the world a better place.” Churches from Pennsylvania and Ohio send mission volunteers to help the Iglesia Evangélica Dominicana, or Dominican Evangelical Church, through education, healthcare and construction.
Each year, Postema invites a group of students to become immersed in Dominican culture, supporting Westminster’s mission to “help men and women develop competencies, commitments and characteristics which have distinguished human beings at their best.”
“I can't say enough about Joel's tireless efforts to encourage and teach his students while also translating for everybody within earshot,” Ken Romig ‘85, Vice President for Finance and Management Services at Westminster, who brought his middle-school son, Nathan, along.
“The trip provides a great opportunity for me to watch my students apply their knowledge and skills,” said Postema. “Students rise to the challenge and make Westminster - and their Spanish professor – proud!”
“Joel is a great example of patience and persistence in getting his students to really think about what they were experiencing and get them to give everything their best efforts,” said Romig. “I hope that every Westminster student has a Dr. Postema to guide them throughout their educational journey!”
This year, students Ashlyn Brown, Madison Ordonez, Sarah Pace, and Shelby Seyler attended the trip, all hoping to pursue medical professions in the future. Their passions were heightened as they were immersed in situations to assist medical mission partners and make use of their language skills and grow as Spanish speakers.
“I cannot put into words the impact this trip had on me,” said Ordonez, a sophomore biochemistry major. “I learned so much about medical care in other countries and it helped increase my knowledge of Spanish – you learn so much more about something by being immersed in it. And, having the Westminster connection with others on the trip made the experience all the more special to me.”
“It’s easy to forge wonderful and comfortable relationships with people of the Westminster community, especially in unique settings like this one,” said Brown, a senior neuroscience major. “You don't realize how much stronger relationships with professors, with administration, and with other students can become when you are sweaty and sleepy after a long day of work in a clinic or at a construction site.”
“Conversing with the people of the Dominican not only made me more comfortable speaking their language, but it gave me the opportunity to learn about the people, their culture, and their daily lives,” said Pace, a junior biology major.
Additional Westminster-affiliated staff and alumni who traveled with the group were Karen Weichman, administrative assistant for the Graduate School, Chris Weichman ’89 and their children, Emma and Noel; Don Shelenberger ’71, retired business manager; and Rachael Wetzel Zahn ’14.
“As someone who doesn't have a lot of direct contact with students, this experience made me realize how trips like this are important – I enjoyed seeing our students apply what they have learned in the classroom to their experiences in the Dominican,” said Romig. “Something that made this trip special was that there were so many parts of the Westminster community represented.”
ABOUT THE STUDENT PARTICIPANTS:
Ashlyn Brown, a senior neuroscience major, is a daughter of Allison Winters and a graduate of Trinity High School.
Madison Ordonez, a sophomore biochemistry major, is a daughter of Rick and Bonnie Ordonez and a graduate of Peters Township High School.
Sarah Pace, a junior biology major, is a daughter of John and Donna Pace and a graduate of Oakland Catholic High School.
Shelby Seyler, a sophomore psychology major, is a daughter of David and Lynn Seyler, Franklin, and a graduate of Franklin Area High School.