Students on Trek: Meet Ciara from Chicago

This summer, we’re fundraising to send six buildOn U.S. students on a life-changing Trek to build a school in one of our partner countries. Keep reading to learn more about Ciara’s story and how Trek would impact her life.

Ciara is a rising senior at Curie Metro High School in Chicago and she’s been serving with buildOn for the past year. 

“I’ve always heard about buildOn but never really considered getting involved. I was really shy. But my goal this year was to try new things,” Ciara shares. She was motivated by the opportunity to serve others and travel throughout Chicago to make a difference. 

Her favorite service so far has been assembling lunch bags for the unhoused at a public library in Pilsen, a historic district in Chicago’s Lower West Side. Ciara really appreciated that her Engagement Specialist Maria Ruiz took time to educate the students about Pilsen before they began service. 

Ciara (third from left) gets ready to distribute lunch bags to Pilsen community members.

“It was really interesting that she taught us about that before service. That way we would have more motivation to help people,” Ciara shares. “It made it more meaningful to ask ourselves, ‘Why are we here?’” She has also appreciates the support and kindness that Maria has shown her this school year. 

“Every time I’ve gone to buildOn, she is a very nice person. She’s engaged with the students, it doesn’t matter who they are. Her space is always open,” Ciara says. “She’s a really great person and is a mentor to the students, almost like a teacher.” She adds, laughing, “And she always has snacks!”

When Ciara heard about her opportunity to go on Trek to Guatemala, she was really excited. “I’ve never been abroad. I’m looking forward to making an impact globally. To have an impact on students my age or younger, to get the opportunity to give them an education, it ties into my values,” she says. “I personally value education and I take it very seriously. Students everywhere around the world should get access to education.” 

She says her parents were surprised that she would be interested in Trek and they were worried at first. But when U.S. Trek Specialist Erving Jimenez told them more about the program, its long standing reputation, and the mission behind Trek, they felt much more secure. 

Ciara takes notes during her Pre-Trek meeting with U.S. Trek Specialist Erving Jimenez.

Ciara is passionate about breaking the cycle of poverty and illiteracy, saying, “I think the government and our politicians and aldermen and mayors need to help prevent poverty and help individuals who don’t have access to food or necessities. I think it’s up to us, the community and people who have more power, to help people get back on their feet.”

“I personally value education and I take it very seriously. Students everywhere around the world should get access to education.” 


In her own Chicago community, Ciara is concerned about the poverty around her. 

“Homelessness is very severe, but it’s so normalized here,” she says. “I think people should take more action in community service because it not only helps other people, it helps the environment and gives us a chance to come together as a community and do something humane to help others. We create bonds with each other and are appreciative of one another. It’s good to know we have people in the world who actually care, instead of just hate.”

Help Ciara build a school in Guatemala this summer by making a gift today.