Falcons go abroad: summer accolades

Darmin Tarasewicz

Darmin Tarasewicz (11), a prospective student of politics, spent two weeks in Ghana this summer during a law and human rights internship with Legal Aid and Amnesty International, both non-profit, international organizations.

The program was split into two one-week sessions. The first week, Tarasewicz was under the supervision of Ghana’s Legal Aid Commission in the country’s capital, Accra, and involved handling legal paperwork and providing basic legal advice to petitioners. The second part of his internship was administered by Amnesty International and focused on bringing awareness to menstrual equity in Ghanaian middle schools and educating people living in poverty about home remedies for medical ailments.

“Kids were going through puberty [and] many of them lacked resources like pads or tampons,” Tarasewicz said. “We talked to them about how periods are natural and shouldn’t be seen as taboo.”

One of seven interns who were chosen via a highly selective application process, Tarasewicz’s most memorable experience was when he was almost able to attend the trial of a Ghanaian man accused of murdering a taxi driver. The trial, set for July 26, was dismissed because the parliament of Ghana abolished the death penalty on July 25. For Tarasewicz, witnessing this legislative action was an added layer of experience to his internship, as Legal Aid and Amnesty International expressed contrasting views on the national ban.

“It’s interesting that Legal Aid [was] fighting [against the ban of] the death penalty, but Amnesty is saying it was a great idea, that it improves human rights in Ghana,” Tarasewicz said.

Tarasewicz plans to pursue a political science and international relations degree in the future.

“This program really exposed me to inequalities not just in society, but also in government and politics,” Tarasewicz said.

Alisha Patel

A four-year student of the TPHS Spanish Language Pathway, Alisha Patel (12) traveled to Santa Elena, Ecuador for a four-week Spanish immersion program in June through the nonprofit organization Amigos de las Americas.

Following her acceptance into the program, Patel joined the San Diego Chapter where she connected with volunteers and Amigos alumni in the area. Leading up to the trip, she honed her Spanish-speaking skills and trained for different scenarios in Santa Elena.

“It was tradition for me to go,” Patel said.

Her father, brother, and other family members have also participated in programs through Amigos, making her experience particularly special.

“I was most excited to meet my host family,” Patel said.

Patel spent the majority of her time living with a local Ecuadorian family; she especially enjoyed conversing with her host mother. Patel also taught local children through games and activities with emphasis on community health, civic participation and leadership. She created these activities with her Amigos community partner Liana Franco, a teenage girl from the Bay Area.

Patel enjoyed aspects of her everyday life such as forming relationships with the local children, playing soccer and most of all, playing Uno.

“There wasn’t a single night we didn’t play Uno,” Patel said.

As her four weeks came to an end, Patel was honored with a community despedida:; a traditional Spanish farewell.

“At the end we took a humongous group picture,” Patel said. “They all kept coming up to me and telling me not to leave.”

Reflecting on her travels, Patel said that she Amigos “completely shifted” her perspective. She highly recommends the program to other students wanting to explore new cultures and gain new experiences.

“It made me grateful for everything I have, especially for the little things like spending time with family and spending time outdoors,” Patel said.

Luca Antonelli

For three weeks this summer, Luca Antonelli (11) sailed through the islands of the Bahamas to earn his Iron Diver certification with the organization known as Naui. To qualify for this experience, Antonelli completed a similar diving program in the British Virgin Islands last summer, earning four open-water diving certifications through diving lessons and final assessments. Joined by 20 other certified divers between the ages of 13 and 20, Antonelli lived on a 70-foot boat and completed 39 dives. He earned the Iron Diver certification by attempting every dive offered throughout the trip.

“I really enjoy the silence [of diving],” Antonelli said. “It gives you time to think by yourself. You really feel at peace.”

When a diver goes beyond 100 feet, their body goes into a state called nitrogen narcosis, which Antonelli describes as a state of euphoria.

Antonelli said that his favorite part of the trip was swimming with nurse sharks; beyond diving, he also enjoyed experiencing Bahamian culture. During the trip, the ship docked for two days, during which Antonelli and his peers were able to explore the islands. They spent these days hiking, eating at restaurants, swimming with pigs, and immersing themselves in Bahamian culture. Antonelli enjoyed cracked conch, a Bahamian staple that is made by battering and frying tenderized conch meat.

“Bahamian culture is super cool because everybody is incredibly respectful,” Antonelli said. “It’s an island culture, so everyone knows everyone. It’s a completely different feeling from being a tourist somewhere else because everyone is really welcoming.”

The maximum depth that Antonelli reached while on his trip in the Bahamas was 151 feet where he was able to stay for 35 minutes. While down there, Antonelli enjoys watching the sea life as well as communicating with his buddy using hand signals.

“ I love sitting down there, with a buddy, looking at cool [stuff].” Antonelli said.

photos by Anna Opalsky/Falconer

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