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State Honoree

Noelle Schmitter-Schrier


Noelle Schmitter-Schrier, 14, of Soldotna, Alaska, an eighth-grader with the Connections Homeschool Program, spent five months last year teaching English to children and teens in a small mountain village in El Salvador. Noelle, a 4-H member, had been an avid volunteer for many years, so when her family traveled to El Salvador in September 2006, she wanted to make a difference there, as well. "I had never seen such extreme conditions," Noelle said, referring to the desperate poverty and unsanitary living conditions she witnessed. She was surprised, however, to find that what the people there needed most was to learn English. "If they know English, it improves their chances of getting a job that pays more than $2 a day," Noelle explained. Noelle and her family spent many hours designing lessons and creative activities, and preparing for the classes. Then Noelle and her younger sister taught 200 students basic English skills in 45-minute sessions for four months. They also taught 50 students in an advanced English class for another month. "One of the most difficult things for me was teaching students who were the same age as me or older, to obtain confidence in front of them," she said. By the time the classes concluded, Noelle's students were able to carry on basic conversations and read simple books. "For me, the 4-H pledge to serve my world really came alive during our time in Central America," said Noelle.