untitled---2014-07-19-at-11-01-11With the sun at their back and a tank full of gas, the promise of adventure awaits for the 83 percent of Americans who plan to hit the highway for a road trip this summer. Countless travelers set their GPS coordinates to popular destinations such as Mount Rushmore, Niagara Falls, Disney World or perhaps, the Boundary Waters. Among them on the open road this summer, were Osseo Area School Board Vice Chair Tammie Epley and First Student Driver Mary Baker – only their trip’s destination has probably never been in a top ten list of road trip adventures. In mid-July, Epley and Baker hopped aboard a school bus full of computers and headed for Mexico; all thanks to the successful fundraising efforts of some Osseo Area Schools fifth graders and a generous donation from First Student and local community organizations.

Maple Grove Rotary, Brooklyn Park Rotary and Osseo Lions funded the donation of 30 computers and the transportation costs to deliver them to a school in Sasabe, Mexico. The computers were packed aboard a bus donated by First Student. Epley and Baker drove that bus to Arizona, where they presented it to the principal of the school in Sasabe, Mexico.

Community support and business contributions play a key role in the success of Students Connecting Through International Service, a program Epley has spearheaded for 12 years. Each year, she partners with a group of Osseo Area Schools fifth graders who commit to helping raise funds to purchase school supplies for students in Sasabe, Mexico. In addition to honing their public speaking and writing skills and exploring creative ways to raise funds, the project includes a group visit to Mexico to distribute the supplies.

During the visit, Osseo students spend time with the Mexican students. For many of the Mexican students, it is the first time they experience swimming in a pool, eating soft serve ice cream and seeing an ice machine – all things that many Osseo students once took for granted as part of daily life. The trip is an experience that many Osseo students say transform their worldview and provide them with a new appreciation for the things they have.

This is the first time Sasabe students will have access to a school bus. It will provide more opportunities for students to achieve new dreams. Many students must walk two or three miles to attend school; a prerequisite that prohibits some students with special needs from attending class. Now, they will be able to ride the bus to get to school. Students will also be able to ride the bus to participate in extra curricular activities such as sports, and math and chess competitions.

The computers will provide Sasabe students with a first look at technology and the opportunity to discover new ways of learning.

Osseo students who have participated in the program over the years say that the experience continues to inspire them to find ways to contribute to community. 

-Published July 28, 2014