Each fall, the Upper School kicks off the year with Character Trips—grade-level excursions that provide rich opportunities for growth as students explore new areas and build community. This year, the sophomore fall trip was also a service trip in partnership with Youth With A Mission and their Homes of Hope project in the Dominican Republic. During the week-long trip, students helped build four homes for families in need.
Over the past decade, Principia students have built 15 homes in the area. Typically, this service trip would be an optional activity over winter break to build one home. The service trip this fall was the first time since 2015 that an entire grade participated, allowing students to quadruple the number of homes built in one trip, bringing Principia’s total contribution to 19 homes.
In preparation for the trip, students held a pancake fundraiser for the Principia community in partnership with Chris Cakes. They also organized a Principia Spirit Wear Week where students and faculty contributed to the cause by paying to wear non-regulation Principia spirit wear. These fundraisers allowed students to buy household items for the Dominican families to use in their new homes.
After arriving, the students spent the majority of the week constructing the homes. They cut wood with power tools, set beams, painted walls bright blue, wired the houses for electricity, and aided in the general construction process. While reflecting on the trip, sophomore Ava Mitchell notes, “What I’m getting out of this trip is the feeling of giving and doing good no matter the challenge.”
During the trip, students also learned more about the rich history and culture of the Dominican Republic. Students practiced speaking Spanish, explored a local artisan market, relaxed at the beach, and toured historical sites in the capital city of Santo Domingo. They also took a dance class, learning three traditional styles of Dominican dance—bachata, merengue, and salsa.
“This trip has been very impactful for me,” says sophomore Natalie Ochieng. “I’ve learned so many things—like love has no limitation and no boundaries, and as long as you give, you also receive blessings. I’m really grateful because I’ve learned a lot, and … I’m going to use what I’ve learned back home.”