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WC’s Class of 2023 makes history as first Upper School seniors to travel to the Dominican Republic

In the Upper School hallways and classrooms over the last few weeks, it has been a common occurrence to see groups of seniors practicing skits, singing kids’ worship songs in Spanish, and completing visa paperwork. These seniors have diligently been preparing in this manner for eight weeks. There has been a tangible sense of anticipation and excitement in the air. Beginning Thursday, March 16, these 61 seniors will put all of that preparation into practice as they set out on a week-long missional adventure in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. While this is not Worthington Christian School’s first group of seniors to travel to the DR, the Class of 2023 will be making history as they embark on their journey. 

This year’s seniors preparing for their three days of ministry in the Dominican Republic

In a year in which the school community is honoring its 50-year past and looking ahead to its bright future, it seems fitting to consider the rich history of the Senior Capstone experience at WC. The roots of this trip can be traced back to former high school principal Tom Anglea. Anglea personally knew a man by the name of Ron Bishop, a former college basketball coach who shifted careers to focus on international sports ministry. Bishop SCORE International Ministries, designed to send short-term mission teams around the world to share the Gospel through sports ministry.  

Desiring to further expand SCORE’s focus beyond sports ministry, Bishop and Anglea partnered to send WC students to the Dominican Republic for a one-week trip in the spring of 2001. It was a wonderful learning opportunity for all. Anglea desired to make this experience an annual event for seniors, but the class of 2002 was unable to travel internationally during the spring before their graduation due to the tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001. In 2003, the trip resumed and took place every year until 2020. 

In its earliest years of existence, WC’s Director of Teaching and Learning (and then-Bible teacher) Tom Burns served as one of the chaperones. He began to envision what it might look like to transform the trip from a seven-day trip to a true capstone experience for Warriors in their final year at WC. In partnership with Anglea’s leadership, Burns made strides to create more structure for the trip. This was gradually accomplished through the mid-2000s: senior teachers made curricular changes to prepare students for being in an international context, students were divided into multiple ministry groups and assigned specific tasks, medical teams were developed, and intentional times of reflection were built into the experience.

From that time onward, the DR trip became what it is today—the Warrior capstone experience. It is a beautiful opportunity for students to live out all that they have learned throughout their education at WC. Hundreds of WC graduates have now had this opportunity, but all of that came to a screeching halt in 2020. Within days of the Class of 2020 taking their much-anticipated trip to the DR, it was canceled because of COVID. The Classes of 2021 and 2022 also missed out on their respective trips due to travel restrictions related to COVID.  

Upper School social studies teacher Dan Roads began serving as a DR trip chaperone in 2010. Having accompanied a total of nine groups of seniors to the DR over the last decade, he holds a unique vantage point of the characteristics of each class. For the Class of 2023, he explains the historical nature of their journey: “These students were freshmen in 2020. For their entire high school experience, no senior class has gone before them to the DR. They are also the first senior class to go to the DR since WC adopted the Upper School model, bringing grades seven through 12 into one building. They have a deep sense of starting this tradition in a fresh way, setting an example for even the youngest Upper School students, and paving the way for the next generation of students who follow in their footsteps. They have met this challenge with great enthusiasm and engagement.”

Coordinating the entire experience this year is Dawn McMahon, Upper School science teacher. She has chaperoned half a dozen senior trips previously and led two alumni groups back to the DR. She describes WC’s strong ongoing relationship with ministry partners in Santo Domingo. More than an isolated one-week experience, WC students annually sponsor 12 children at a local school there (through one of the school’s ministry partners Vision Trust), and they will have the chance to connect and meet these children in person during the trip. McMahon also explains that the leader of this local school (“Ensanche Altagracia”) refers to WC as “the people who always come back.”

Roads and McMahon on their first respective trips to the DR with WC

Senior Zoe Ward is one of six students serving as a team leader for this year’s trip. She has been a student at WC since 8th grade, at which time she began studying Spanish. She is now taking Spanish 5 and is especially excited to put her language skills into practice in this immersive experience. She has enjoyed co-leading her team of 20 peers as they selected two Bible stories to prepare skits for and several children’s songs in Spanish to memorize and create accompanying dance motions to teach the children. Like the two other groups on the trip, they will share the things they have prepared for on three specific ministry days, visiting a local school and villages in the Santo Domingo area. Like her classmates, Ward takes seriously the reality that she and her classmates are making history for the entire Upper School and future generations of DR trip participants. Her words capture the essence of this year’s history-makers, “Knowing this makes me want to do the best that I can. I want to show the younger students how fun it can be to serve others and share the joy and love of Christ alongside our classmates. We are blessed to have this opportunity.”  

Dr. Hayes, in his March Head of School message, invited the entire school community to cover the 61 seniors and six chaperones (and their families) in prayer as they travel this month. Please join us in lifting them all up over the next two weeks. You can also see daily updates with photos and student-written blog entries on the Worthington Christian School website here (Parents & Students > Upper School > left-hand column “Senior Capstone”).

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