On a mission: Hinsdale Adventist Academy seniors venture to Puerto Rico 

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Chasing waterfalls: "I feel like the trip helped open our eyes to the real world and now I have a lot better idea of what is to come," said John Gallagher, a senior at Hinsdale Adventist Academy. | SUPPLIED PHOTO

The school year is wrapping up and seniors are preparing for graduation. They are reflecting on their experience and taking in sage advice from their peers, teachers, coaches and members of their academic community.

A big part of the development and growth of students at Hinsdale Adventist Academy (HAA) is the annual mission trip, a journey that happens during spring break and the ideal finale for graduating seniors. The students are involved in the planning, organizing, research and funding operations that make this event possible.

John Gallagher, a senior at HAA, just returned from this year’s mission trip in Puerto Rico. He, along with his fellow classmates, helped paint a church and lead worship services.

“The senior mission trip made our class a lot closer and stronger. It changed all of us in different ways,” said Gallagher. “For me, seeing the poverty made me appreciate what I have at home a lot more. It also made me appreciate Chicago weather. I feel like the trip helped open our eyes to the real world and now I have a better idea of what is to come.”

The student association president, Spencer Baum, felt that the trip helped make his final year more memorable. He gained an appreciation for the community he lives in upon returning from Puerto Rico.

“There is a lot of diversity in living standards and some people are surviving in very difficult circumstances,” said Baum. “The mission trip definitely helped us to get ready for the next stage of our lives.”

Brimming with excitement during her final weeks of high school, senior Allison Mochizuki, said that the trip was very rewarding. Her group was responsible for finishing the planned project on time and also for doing it well.

“It helped prepare us for graduation by learning how to live more independently and by taking responsibility for our own finances,” said Mochizuki.

Seniors are dealing with looming graduation by taking time to value and remember how they’ve grown at HAA over the years and especially during the time they spent on the mission trip-a culminating capstone event for seniors.

Teachers and faculty have taken it upon themselves to reach out to students and give them individual attention, affirmation and guidance about what they should expect upon graduation. They’ve had countless conversations as well about the challenges and rewards of imminent college life.

Robert Jackson, the associate principal at HAA, believes that the senior class mission trip is a great opportunity for young adults to learn independence, time management, responsibility and teamwork.

“It is a great launching pad for our kids; it opens their eyes to life’s realities and they have to learn that what they do really matters to others,” said Jackson.

“They learned how to work as a team and appreciate the little things. I don’t think they realized that what they were doing was so special,” said Alex Adams, senior sponsor and athletic director at Hinsdale Adventist Academy. “They didn’t think painting a building and singing was significant, but they received an overwhelmingly positive response from the local people. The project helped the seniors to realize that everyone has a role to play. It was important for them to do their work to the best of their ability with no excuses. They had to try their best and get it done. They learned how to rely on each other and care for each other’s burdens.”