Morristown, N.J. (November 24, 2014) – Sometimes, you never really know how profound an effect you might have on another person. In the story of Luz Dominguez, Business Administration, '16, it was Nancy Candea, who taught the course Lifestyles for Wellness that left a lasting impression of caring and compassion on her.
"She inspired me to look into volunteer opportunities and to use my skills for a compassionate purpose," says Dominguez. "I wanted something international, so I researched groups that handled international volunteer placement."
After settling on International Volunteer Headquarters, she prepared to take a trip to China to teach young men with a myriad of disabilities how to read, write, and speak English. Her trip began in August 2014 and she returned to the U.S. in October 2014.
So just how does one settle into a new country for two months? "I speak Mandarin," Dominguez explains. She also speaks Spanish, French, and English. Her family had emigrated from Argentina when she was two years old, so she grew up speaking both English and Spanish. In high school, she took French, and in her first year of college at Holy Cross, she tried Mandarin and discovered that she was good at languages.
Her time in China was spent in the Muslim quarter of X'ian at a boarding school called the Stan Sunshine Home. "It was a very poor school without basic supplies – I would have to draw lines on paper so my students could practice their writing," she explains. "Except for speaking Chinese, I did not feel like I was in China; the area was full of Muslim culture and cuisine. I really enjoyed it!"
Her students ranged in age from eight to 23 with a variety of disabilities: learning, physical, and psychological. She, and another volunteer, would build their curriculum with a structured schedule, teaching them Chinese, basic hygiene, exercise such as yoga, music, art, basic English and some sports. The area did not have playgrounds or athletic fields, so the teachers improvised with activities such as bowling and jogging.
Dominguez says she learned a great deal from her experience. She learned patience with her students, the Chinese teachers who knew no English and a very different culture in which she had to learn patience with herself. She credits her time in China with learning leadership skills.
"I was definitely out of my comfort zone," she says. "I had to make it work!"
She also says that she learned time management. But perhaps her biggest experience was the knowledge that she was a woman empowered; she was a leader, teacher, and a student of culture in a foreign land.
Back at the College of Saint Elizabeth, she is taking session B courses and enjoying the campus activities. But she has her eye on the prize – and would love to build a school one day for children with disabilities that emphasizes teaching children with the ways they learn best.
Now for the surprise ending ... Luz herself has a learning disability. She credits her teachers throughout her life with encouraging her to never give up, but to reach higher. This would be an integral part of her school – to have children understand that they are not less because of a disability. They simply learn differently.