Culver City teens travel to Bogota, Columbia for a cultural exchange with profound lesson
December 7, 2023
Austin Jones, Kenny Jones, Max Mahon, Ross Borden and chaperone Keith Jones travelled to the mountain town of Tenjo, Columbia just outside of Bogota last summer. They utilized the universal language of sports to embark on a life-changing journey.
Leveraging their love for lacrosse, they partnered with the nonprofit organization Lacrosse the Nations who is dedicated to using lacrosse as a tool to uplift communities and bridge cultural gaps. They coordinate trips for teens in the US to Colombia, Nicaragua and Panama to teach PE classes and help in community centers.
According to Senior Austin Jones, "This trip was an opportunity to see a very different part of the world but to be able to connect through sports and language." Austin, a graduate of El Marino Language School is fluent in Spanish and served as an interpreter for the group, including the team chaperone and his father, Keith Jones.
"It was great to be able to communicate well when I was meeting the students and teaching them. I was able to connect with them more and got to know the kids better which brought up my level of teaching and I think they had even more fun learning lacrosse," said Austin Jones.
Austin recruited other high school lacrosse players for the trip and raised money by speaking to high school teams and making power point presentations to parents and community groups like the Culver City Rotary Club. The boys coordinated a gear donation drive as well. After weeks of collections, they were able to bring over 50 sets of individual gear for the children in Colombia.
For 8th grader, Kenny Jones, also a graduate of El Marino Language School, this trip opened his eyes to the struggles that people around the world face. "I took this trip because I really like the sport of lacrosse and I loved the idea of getting immersed in another culture. Connecting with the students through lacrosse gave us a shared interest to build friendships."
Over the course of seven days, they immersed themselves in teaching lacrosse to middle school students in this small mountain town. When they were not teaching, they worked at the local community center completing much-needed improvements to the rudimentary, tin-roofed structures they use for classrooms.
Nights were spent in the village's sole hotel, offering an opportunity to reflect on the day's events. "The kids at the schools were so appreciative and energetic" Austin Jones recalled. "One highlight of my trip was playing lacrosse with the kids and when a new kid scored a goal, his face brightened up so much and brought us both so much happiness."
The experience of these young lacrosse enthusiasts stands as a testament to the unifying power of sports and the potential for personal growth through cultural exchange. Through Lacrosse the nations, they embraced the opportunity to make a positive impact and create lasting bonds, one lacrosse pass at a time.