Students take part in service-learning during Heston Summer Experience

Heston Summer Experience

Have you ever tracked chimpanzees in the jungle, built a water-harvesting tank, or prepared dinner for a group of farmers? Gettysburg College students have through their participation in the Heston Summer Experience, a nine-week immersion program coordinated by the Center for Public Service.

Made possible by a generous gift from James Heston '70, the Heston Summer Experience provides students with an opportunity to become actively involved in social justice initiatives in local and global communities. Students must apply months in advance to participate in the competitive program, and those that are selected are offered paid or fully-funded internships. Before their summer immersions begin, accepted students participate in an orientation program led by Gretchen Natter and Kim Davidson, director and associate director of the Center for Public Service. The semester-long orientation helps the students get to know each other, prepares them for their upcoming experiences, and introduces them to the resources, people, and projects at their host sites.

Eleven students were selected from dozens of applicants to participate in the 2011 summer program:

Bridget Footit '13, Benjamin Schell '12, and Elena Perez-Zetune '14 travelled to Nicaragua for their summer experience.

• Footit worked with Esperanza en Accion, an organization that offers banking assistance and connections to fair trade markets. Her responsibilities included meeting with artisans, purchasing crafts, and selling them to markets overseas. "I learned the intricacies of aid organizations and developed critical attributes necessary to work within a foreign community," she said.

• Schell assisted FUPROSOMUNIC, a "green" solar energy organization that teaches women how to build their own solar ovens and dryers. After completing his internship, Schell decided to remain in Nicaragua and spend his fall semester studying abroad.

• Perez-Zetune worked with El Proyecto las Tias, a program that helps children from low-income families complete their homework and learn how to read. Children participating in the program were between the ages of six and thirteen, and several had learning disabilities.

Michael Altman '12, Margot Stluka '13, and Kate White '13 travelled to Uganda for their summer experience.

A Ugandan child displays crafts• Altman worked with the AIDS Support Organization and helped build three underground rainwater collection tanks. He also led seminars that taught community members the value of proper hygiene.

• Stluka joined the Kitovu Mobile AIDS Organization, where she worked with HIV positive orphans between the ages of ten and twenty years old. "I am forever grateful for the opportunity to see, live, and learn from culturally strong and independent Ugandans," she said.

• White led a series of workshops on nutrition, reproductive systems, and family planning for the Lutweete Farmers Cooperative. She also led a project that constructed water-harvesting tanks, providing the community with closer access to clean water.

Emily Lindholm '13, Laura Koenig '13, Cam Nguyen '13, Aleksandra Petkova '14, and Elizabeth Rupert '13 remained in Adams County, Pennsylvania for their summer experience.

A Heston Summer Experience student builds a solar oven• Lindholm and Nguyen worked in Gettysburg College's Campus Kitchen, where they prepared meals for various groups and organizations, coordinated food processing shifts, and actively promoted community engagement in food sustainability. "I learned that I have the power to make a positive difference in my community, and that initiative is an incredible force," Lindholm said.

• Koenig joined the South Central Community Action Program, where she worked at a homeless shelter and participated in the Work Ready and Circles Initiative programs. She also coordinated the poverty simulation for the College's Gettysburg is Volunteering (GIV) Day.

• Petkova taught English to Spanish-speaking students at the Migrant Education Center for Adults and Families. She also helped lead an after-school program at Gettysburg Middle School, where one of her biggest projects included teaching students how to grow their own produce.

• Rupert taught dance classes at the Summer School of Excellence, a division of the Lincoln Intermediate Unit's Migrant Education Program. She also taught English to Spanish-speaking adults. "This experience showed me the true meaning of hard work and dedication," she said.

A Heston Summer Experience student leads a class abroadWhen asked to reflect upon their summer internship, students described it as the experience of a lifetime. They were grateful for the opportunity to participate in the program, and plan to continue to serve locally and globally. Students also plan to maintain the friendships they formed with their classmates and the people they met during their summer experiences.

"I am inspired by the students' abilities to build meaningful relationships with the people they meet during their internships," said Kim Davidson, associate director of the Center for Public Service. "They return to Gettysburg with a deeper understanding of the world's complex social issues, and continue to be engaged in the struggle for social justice".

Even though the students were very busy during their internships, they found leisure time to explore the communities that surrounded them. Altman, Stluka, and White visited Uganda's Queen Elizabeth National Park and tracked wild chimpanzees. Schell travelled to Granada, where he reunited with Gettysburg College alumni Hannah Kane '10 and Greg Purifoy '10. Petkova, Nguyen, Lindholm, Koenig, and Rupert picked blueberries together at a farm outside of Gettysburg.

Read more about the students' experiences this summer in the 2011 Heston Summer Experience blog.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Tracey Dukert, assistant director of news content, 717.337.6521

Posted: Fri, 9 Sep 2011


What an extraordinary article showcasing these eleven students making a difference! The Heston Summer Experience and The Center for Public Service have provided experiences that will last a lifetime. Kudos to the students who gave of themselves.... Kudos to the programs and Gettysburg College! Great story!

Janice M. Onieal | Posted Sep 20, 2011 11:40 PM

I was fortunate to have served in Gettysburg through the Heston Summer Experience in 2008, and absolutely loved reliving the experiences reading this piece. Lessons learned then are seeing me through today, even in my work here in Thailand! I'm ever grateful to CPS and Gburg for encouraging us to wrestle with the tough issues and to be engaged in working for justice in our communities!

Aimee Sarah George - 2009 | Posted Oct 05, 2011 12:31 AM



Related Stories


Get all the latest news delivered to your inbox or RSS reader:

  • News - profiles, event coverage, campus updates
  • Athletics - scores and highlights
  • In the Media - faculty, alumni and students featured in the media
  • Photo of the Day - images from campus and the community

Submit a story idea

The Office of Communications and Marketing is looking for stories about Gettysburgians doing great work.

Send your suggestions to