|Hannah Hackley and teammate Jackie Nagle spent the summer in Costa Rica serving, learning and teaching, and have expanded Amherst's fan base as a result.
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It was an opportunity of a lifetime for Amherst College juniors Hannah Hackley and Jackie Nagle, who both spent this past summer interning with Beyond el Campo, a nonprofit started by alum Caitlin Schudder that is a rural education innititive focused on providing quality educational opportunities to students and families of an underserved region of Costa Rica.
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Neither Hackley nor Nagle had visited Costa Rica, but they had heard amazing things about the initiative and experience through former teammate and co-captain Cheyenne Pritchard, who is currently the organization’s Co-President, according to the Beyond el Campo website.
Pritchard traveled to Costa Rica in the summer of 2014 and helped the organization with constructing a new computer room for the one-room library, while teaching classes to preschoolers, elementary students and adults.
With Pritchard's assistance, they finished the computer room, included six laptops, along with a printer, tiled floor, painted walls and decorated furniture.
“From discussing with Cheyenne different opportunities and interests in expanding on travel experience, language experience and a different culture, as well as the fact that Hannah and I both like working with people, we were both interested in teaching, going to a new place and meeting new people,” said Nagle, who is a biology and psychology major.
Upon arriving, both Nagle and Hackley immediately embraced the Santa Cruz community, teaching English classes and updating the library, while improving their Spanish, too.
“I would say we’re both proficient (in Spanish),” said Hackley, who is an English and psychology major, “however, my Spanish was a little rusty (at the start), so I think we went in a little shaky and came out more confident.”
In addition to their English classes, both Hackley and Nagle taught yoga on Sundays – an additional recreational offering to Pilates and zumba, which the women of the community truly enjoyed.
Teaching Yoga or English or perhaps painting the library weren’t the only things keeping Nagle and Hackley busy. They also assisted with paving sidewalks to planting new gardens and helping their host mothers with their catering business, too.
Nagle continues to stay in touch with her host mother – one of her fondest memories was teaching her how to say the word ‘cow.’
Months have passed since their time in Costa Rica, but the one word both student-athletes use to describe their experience was ‘inspiration.’ And that inspiration was seen through the women and children that walked miles to attend their various English sessions at the library.
“You could see how passionate they were for learning,” said Hackley. “It was very inspiring to me.”
Added Nagle, “I was inspired by the women in the village that would walk their children miles to go to school and my host mother would share stories of not being able to attend high school because there wasn’t a school close enough (to where she lived). Her parents did not want her to walk by herself, but her inspiration to learn and me being there (was inspiring). I would teach her a new English word every morning … you just know that these people wanted to get the most out of any educational opportunity they could because they didn’t have the opportunity to do so.”
Whether it was teaching a new word or a simple conversation with members of the Santa Cruz community, both Hackley and Nagle left an impact on some of the Purple and White’s newest fans – both student-athletes say when they connect with their former host families via Skype, they ask about their current campaign.
“They do always ask how we’re doing,” Hackley said. “They are always asking how we’re doing, how the team is doing and they want to learn more about each member of the team and see pictures, so they’re still very invested.”
Both student-athletes will remain invested in this amazing initiative and hope to return to visit their host families soon. At the moment, they’re working with this coming year’s interns that will continue to provide inspiration to this community just like they did to Nagle and Hackley.
“We would love to do go back and visit our host families soon,” said Hackley.
Echoed Nagle, “We look forward to visiting our host families as soon as we can.”