Students Donate Field Trip Funds to Navajo Nation During COVID-19

When the eighth-graders of Santa Fe Waldorf School found out that their class trip was canceled due to COVID-19, they looked for ways they could offer kindness instead. 

Students were disappointed upon hearing the news that their much anticipated six-day rafting expedition trip had been called off in an effort to abide by coronavirus social distancing and safety measures. In an interview with Good Morning America, their teacher, Daisy Barnard explained that they had been looking forward to their graduation trip for years. “It’s not just an annual thing, it’s a culminating trip after staying together from first to eighth grade,” said Barnard. 

Choosing Kindness and Service Instead

In an attempt to fund their adventure on the San Juan River, the group of teens had worked together to raise $2,800. However, news of cancellations left them wondering what they would do with the money. Considering the devastation that the coronavirus was having globally, the students were determined to make the best of an unfortunate situation and sought out ways to support vulnerable populations during these difficult times.

Supporting the Navajo Nation

After learning about the effects of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation – a heavy hit region with some of the highest per capita cases of infection – the students decided to use their field trip funds to help. 

Mother of one of the eighth-grade students, Jess Falkenhagen, explained to Good Morning America, “I’ve been following the situation in the Zuni and Navajo Nations really closely and it has been absolutely devastating.” She went on to state, “This is happening in our backyard and we’ve felt powerless as a tragedy unfolds in tribal lands.”

According to Good Morning America, Falkenhagen was impressed by the kindness and selflessness of her child’s eighth-grade class and offered to support them in their efforts. After a little digging, she came up with a list of donation items most needed by the community of the Navajo Nation. After reviewing plans for safety with the Santa Fe Waldorf School’s faculty, the decision was made. Falkenhagen and her family would use the students’ donated money to purchase supplies and deliver them to the Navajo Nation.

“We loaded up on toilet paper, cleaning products, antibacterial soap, and wipes, thermometers, toiletries, 75 cans of nonperishable food, 20 boxes of diapers, jugs full of water… We just grabbed as much as we could with the money we had,” said Falkenhagen. 

In addition to supplies, Falkenhagen’s daughter, Indie, sewed 30 masks to add to their donation, stating, “It felt good to help others in need during this pandemic.”

A Silver Lining

Canceled graduations and class trips, as a result of COVID-19, have been heartbreaking for countless students globally. After years spent working towards a goal, missing out on the celebration of that precious moment can feel incredibly discouraging. But seeing this young group of Santa Fe teenagers put the wellbeing of others above their own interests gives us hope, reminding us to always keep an eye out for the good.

Falkenhagen elaborated, stating, “kids around the world are disappointed they’re missing out on graduations and milestones, but our eighth graders were thrilled they could be of service… They were all happy the money they raised would be of use to someone truly in need. It’s the silver lining to missing out on the trip.”

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