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BISB Student Wins Prudential Spirit of Community Award

A British International School of Boston high school student, Paula Gutierrez, was honored this month for her work on a sustainable farming project in Tanzania last year.

  • A student smiles while doing service work in Tanzania, Africa.

Paula, a Year 13 student in the IB Diploma Programme, was honored with a Certificate of Excellence from The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, with a President’s Volunteer Service Award granted by the program on behalf of President Barack Obama.

Presented annually by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honors young people across America for outstanding volunteer service. Certificates of Excellence, like Paula received, are granted to the top 10 percent of all award applicants in each state.

The President’s Volunteer Service Award recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country.

In her application, Paula shared her experiences volunteering with other BISB students in Tanzania last year, sharing the months of preparation leading up to the February 2015 trip to Africa and the many lessons she learned throughout the process.

Paula and the other BISB students involved participated in one week of volunteer activities at the Kitefu Primary School with other Nord Anglia Education students. In a second week of service, the students from BISB moved on to a remote Maasai village in the Lake Natron region of Tanzania, where they helped local experts develop a sustainable farming site at a village school.

Since their work, the site has grown into a vital source of education for the village residents and has even inspired residents to study sustainable farming. The garden has grown significantly since the 2015 service trip, and provides food for the school’s students.

This year, a new group of BISB students will travel to Tanzania to continue the work at the farming site, expanding the site significantly and adding a drip irrigation system to the original site.

The project had a profound impact on Paula.

“This experience has definitely surpassed all of my expectations,” she wrote from Tanzania last year. “I have realized how lucky I am to have the life that I have and to get this opportunity.”

This year, Paula has even written her Extended Essay, a 4,000 word primary research paper that is a requirement of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, about her experience in Tanzania. The essay explores how the biodigester and permaculture garden site developed by BISB students and Tanzanian organizations can address the nutritional needs of the Maasai community that lives in the village.

BISB teacher Ruth Williams, who supervises the Tanzania service trip, said this award reflects “the extraordinary efforts Paula made toward this project; before, during and after the expedition.”

Read more about the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards here.