Senior project changes lives in Costa Rica


Adam Schasel, Staff Reporter

Senior projects can result in many things, ranging from fixing cars to making video games to getting a job. But few seniors are willing to travel to an impoverished country to help others.

Senior Annie Tadvick did just that, and after spending Jan. 15-22 helping Costa Rican children, Tadvick and the students that went with her have brought home some life lessons.

Tadvick, who had always wanted to be a part of a service mission but whose church only hosted them for adults, said her inspiration to organize the trip was a combination of a desire to make an impact in peoples’ lives and a boring day in church.

“While zoning out during a homily in church one day, I kept thinking about how I wanted to do something that would change my perspective as well as other students’ perspectives on life,” she said.

Tadvick said she was struggling to find what her purpose would be after high school.

“To be honest, I was a little lost when it came to the question of what you are doing for college and I needed something that would help give me direction,” Tadvick said.

Ultimately, she decided on service work.

Tadvick soon emailed Dina Gundelfinger, a mom with connections to areas in need and immediately began coordinating her trip. Tadvick then began emailing ideas and Gundefinger connected her with the Santa Maria elementary school and the Friends of Nosara Foundation, a U.S.-based nonprofit that organizes charitable events to benefit the lives of residents, children, and the health of the rainforest in Costa Rica.

Accompanied with Tadvick were many students, among them freshman Grace Kuang and sophomore Michael Henn.

“I learned how grateful I should be,” Kuang said.

Kuang said she was not allowed to bring as much as a cell phone or laptop with her.

“I didn’t have warm showers, I didn’t have internet of course, and the roads were so bumpy and we were really crowded in the car,” she said. “I learned that you don’t need a lot of things to be happy.”

Ultimately, Kuang said she did not need electronics to occupy her time in Costa Rica.

“We played with the kids a lot,” she said. “We just wanted to make the kids happy so we played soccer and face-painted and played with arts and crafts.”

For Henn, his experience in Costa Rica was an opportunity to kick back and hang out with Costa Rican kids.

“It was great, and I played a ton of soccer and I spoke a ton of Spanish,” he said. “It wasn’t as much work as you would expect.”

Fun and games aside, Henn did learn something as well from his experience.

“I came back feeling more laid-back,” he said. “It was a much-needed reality check.”

For Tadvick, her experience was ultimately about more than volunteering, relaxing or getting to practice her Spanish.

“I originally just thought it was about service work, because going to a foreign country and planning activities is a lot of work,” Tadvick said. “But our group was from all these different places, and we really brought everyone together and got to know each other and we bonded during the trip.”