By Bob Fowler, Roane State staff writer
Roane State faculty Dave Rath and Cody Miller faced an ironic dilemma.
They had more contributions for impoverished children in Costa Rica and Panama than they had space set aside to fly down to those Central American countries.
“We’ll find a way,” Rath vowed. “Before we leave your hard work in Tennessee, we’ll find a way,” he told their students.
Rath and Miller and 14 students in their World Cultures and Service Learning class recently packed up large cardboard boxes of shoes, toothbrushes, school supplies, and a myriad of other items to transport to remote areas of the two countries during the trip, May 8-17.
This year’s supply drive was the biggest yet, Rath said.
During the trip, the students gave lessons on using a toothbrush to some youngsters of the two countries, Rath said. “I saw tears in my students’ eyes when I told them some of these children had never brushed their teeth,” he said.
The students visited five tiny villages in the two countries and stayed in often primitive conditions with the local residents.
The trip is the highlight of the World Cultures and Service Learning class, and it is the 11th consecutive year of the program, Rath said. He and Miller team-teach the class, where students learn about foreign cultures and how they can perform service learning activities for the residents.
Students collected the donations throughout the semester, largely through social media appeals. Collection boxes were also placed at the entrances of the community college’s outlying campuses.
“I loved seeing the students come together for the purpose of serving others,” Miller said.
For some of the professors’ students, the upcoming trip is an unparalleled adventure. Five of them had never flown, and six had never been out of the country.
It’s her fifth trip, said Stephanie Anderson, who is a Roane State graduate. She re-enrolled, mainly so she could return to Central America. The first time Anderson went, it was a case of culture shock, she said.
“I love the kids down there and seeing their culture, and I like seeing the reactions of my fellow students,” she said.
Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs, and continuing education. Founded in 1971, the college has campuses in Crossville, Harriman, Huntsville, Jamestown, Knoxville, LaFollette, Lenoir City, Oak Ridge, and Wartburg.
For more information, visit roanestate.edu or call (865) 882-4554.
Remember, eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant. Learn more at www.roanestate.edu/reconnect.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
This story and photos were submitted by Owen Driskill.
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