They have all dispersed to various high schools in Tampa Bay, but when eight of Roland Park K-8’s former student reconvened at their middle school this week, the giggles resumed quickly.

“It was awesome,” said Alexie Prieto. “It was very like, a lesson learning trip.”

The kids gathered to reminisce about a trip from early July. Ten former Roland Park students traveled over 1,000 miles to the city of Jarabacoa in the Dominican Republic to build an aqueduct for a village that didn’t have sustainable, running water.

The experience affected the teens in a big way.

“You hear about a lot of things like no running water, about poverty, starvation – but it seems so far away,” said Shrisha Saravana.

“These people, they live in poverty while we live here in the USA and we have phones,” Felix Cabreja chimed in.

The students took those cell phones with them on the trip but it was mostly just to capture photos. Instead of spending time on social media or texting friends back home, the soon-to-be freshmen spent time interacting with the children of the Dominican Republic and marveling at how those kids found entertainment in anything.

For the administrators who chaperoned the trip, that was the most impactful thing that happened in the seven days out of the country.

“Incredible,” said Katie Gilson. “I don’t know if words can describe it. They grew up a lot in that seven days that they were there.”

“Be thankful for all that we have in this first-world country and don’t complain about minor issues when people don’t even have running water on a daily basis,” said Cameron Bray, when asked about what he learned in Jarabacoa.

This current class of eighth-grade students will take a service trip to central Costa Rica next summer to build classrooms and bathrooms in middle and high schools near the Arenal volcano.

“We don’t prepare kids for the next year of school. We prepare them for life,” said assistant principal Cara von Ancken. “The distance between dream and reality is action.”

The students earned scholarship money to help offset the $2,300 price of the trip. Roland Park is an I.B. school that focuses on creating globally-minded pupils. Students are given a year’s notice to start saving for service trips.

“A major piece of who we are as Roland Park is learning about each other’s differences and then coming together and creating a better world,” said von Ancken.