Twenty-five students from Southwest Washington were stranded in Newark, New Jersey on Thursday after blizzard conditions canceled thousands of flights.
The students were returning home from a service trip to the Dominican Republic with the nonprofit, Courts for Kids. Their flight to Portland was rescheduled for Sunday.
The group checked into a hotel near the airport with little more than the clothes they were wearing. Many had donated what they'd packed for the trip, to the villagers. Several students arrived in Newark wearing summer clothes, but that didn't stop them from experiencing the storm for a few minutes.
“Here's our crazy group!” Selene Nesland, Courts for Kids co-founder, said.
The teens spent a week in the Dominican Republic, building sport courts for village children, while learning about their culture and language.
“It was pretty unreal,” said one student in a Skype interview. “Working with the locals there, having such a language barrier but just being able to work together to complete such a big project.”
By the end of the trip, the students, who attend schools all over Clark County, were anxious get home before the blizzard hit.
“I haven't heard anyone complain,” said Nesland. “The whole spirit of the trip was putting others first and serving others and they have kept that same sprit even when they're stranded so I'm really proud of them.”
The group passed the hours and days without their cell phones, which they left at home per Courts for Kids policy.
“They actually connected with people by disconnecting,” said Nesland, as her students laughed in the background. “They had real conversations with real people and they really got a lot out of it.”
For some of the students, it was a transformative experience.
“I'm going to stop my Snapchat streak when I get home,” exclaimed one teen, as her friends erupted in cheers.
Nesland says churches in Newark brought the group clothes and food. Others made donations online to get them through the weekend.
“Thank you to everyone supporting us here,” said Nesland. “We feel the love.”