On a mission to Mexico

Eben Harrell
Folding back a roll of computer paper that the wind captured, Max Zimet, right, and Phillip Nevin help load up trailers and RVs before heading to Mexico Thursday morning April 22, 2004. The 11-year-old Zimet says he's travelling to Mexico and will be helping install the computers at a school in Ignacio Allende in the province of Chihuahua. Computers, printers, microwaves, desks, chairs, sporting goods, school supplies, and cafeteria equipment are donated to a local school. Thirty six students, 23 from AMS, 10 from Waldorf and three from AHS, will be traveling to Mexico with several adults to improve and repair the school. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.

Local students, parents and teachers will set off today for weeklong community-service trip to a small, impoverished town in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

They will bring nearly $20,000 in funds and supplies to a small schoolhouse in the town of Ignacio Allende.

Approximately 34 students, 24 parents and three teachers will transport some 25 computers and printers to construct a computer lab for the school. A privately donated kitchen, complete with commercial refrigerator and grills, will also be installed to help the school’s cafeteria.

The trip is part of a project, launched three years ago by Aspen sixth-grade teacher Peter Westcott, to help the struggling Mexican town. In 2001, students in Westcott’s class made extensive renovations to the village’s schoolhouse, along with erecting a mural painted by both Aspen and Ignacio Allende students.

This year Westcott’s class will be joined by a seventh-grade class from the Waldorf School near El Jebel, as well as three high school students from Basalt.

Since the beginning of the school year, participating students have run an extensive fund-raising campaign of bake sales and car washes; they have also solicited private donations. All told, the students raised $17,000 in cash and a few thousand dollars worth of supplies.

While in Mexico, most students will sleep on the floor of the local church. Westcott said they are excited about interacting with a different culture.

Sixth-grader Philip Nevins is prepared for the culture shock.

“I think that the first thing that we will see when we get off the bus is that the town is poor, dry, dusty and there will be no snow at all,” he said.

Westcott hopes these trips will become an annual experience for Aspen’s students. He said such expeditions go a long way toward instilling the joy of altruism in both students and parents.

“When we went last time, [the locals] welcomed us with open arms, holding a welcoming ceremony with traditional dancers and foods,” Westcott said. “I think this trip will change a lot of lives, especially Aspen lives.”

Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is


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