Principal pitching in for distant school

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Eureka Elementary School Principal Cari Lucey stands in front of a quilted wall hanging depicting her school on Nov. 28. Lucey is in the Dominican Republic helping build a school.

Eureka Elementary School Principal Cari Lucey is more than 3,000 miles away building a school in the Dominican Republic.

Lucey left Monday for the agricultural mountain community of Constanza and returns Dec. 12. Constanza is northwest of the capital, Santo Domingo.

She is among 40 volunteer school principals and superintendents participating in the 2012 Lifetouch Memory Mission facilitated through World Servants.

Constanza has a population of about 90,000 but education remains out of reach for many of Constanza’s children, according to World Servants. Last year, Memory Mission volunteers completed the first floor of a new school.

Lucey’s group will complete a second floor on the cinderblock, concrete and stucco building.

This is Lucey’s first trip to a Latin American country. She has done some research about the country and the culture, but wants to leave most exploration to firsthand experiences.

“I’m keeping an open mind,” Lucey said in a phone interview before she left on her mission trip.

The group is staying in a villa near the construction site and will take buses each day to work alongside Dominicans. They also will spend a day in a neighboring village to meet with local people in a cultural exchange.

“We’re traveling to a village not far from where we’re staying and we’ll be able to visit their homes and talk to the people,” Lucey said.

At 9:30 a.m. Monday she is scheduled to connect with Eureka Elementary and some middle school students via live streaming video.

“We have everyone signed up to do a Google Hangout,” Lucey said. Google Hangouts allow multiple groups, in different locations, to video chat online.

Mission volunteers represent the American Association of School Administrators, National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Each organization held a random drawing of applicants to pick volunteers.

Lucey heard about the program during a presentation by 2011 volunteers at a National Association of Elementary School Principal convention.

“They got up and talked about the life-changing experiences. They felt they were part of something so much bigger than building a school,” Lucey said. “It changed how they interacted and approached children in their own schools.”

Inspired by the presentation, Lucey sought out the chance to do the same.

“I think one of the reasons that made me say, ‘Yes I’m going,’ is that I don’t know if I’ll get another opportunity,” Lucey said.

Before leaving Eureka she visited classrooms and talked about the Dominican Republic. Students and staff rallied around their principal and helped raise the $2,800 trip fee.

“Going into this I thought it was going to change me [when I got there], but it has already. When I go and talk to classrooms, kids are asking me how to donate, how to help,” Lucey said. “The giving I’ve seen kids do has been really neat to see.”

With support of the community, Lucey had raised about $3,000 since October. In addition to her personal suitcase, Lucey planned to bring a second filled with donations ranging from medical supplies to pencils and cards Eureka students made. Additionally, her students wanted to donate money for school uniforms after learning that some students could not attend school without a uniform, which costs roughly $40.

“The people of Eureka are so giving and very supportive. The fundraising was not a burden,” Lucey said, noting the support of her husband, Jim, 8-year-old daughter, Milynn, and the district superintendent and school board.

She hopes the trip will inspire students to volunteer.

“I want them to think, ‘Maybe I can do this some day,’” Lucey said.

Visit Lifetouch Memory Mission on Google Plus to watch live streaming video from Constanza on Monday.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or by email at


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