They buildOn: Courtney Gallo Plans First Alumni Trek

Courtney Gallo once had a conversation with a friend about building a school; that dream is about to become a reality. The New Canaan, Connecticut buildOn alumnus is organizing the first-ever alumni Ambassador Trek to Malawi, tentatively planned for January 2012. Courtney had the opportunity to build a school while on a Trek for Knowledge in Nicaragua during the summer of 2003.  In an article published in New Canaan News, she claims, “I would not be as globally aware or conscious, and certainly would not have been empowered to make a difference, if it were not for buildOn.”

Courtney and her friend Taylor Engleson, another buildOn alumnus, began reminiscing about their treks in the summer of 2010. Soon after, they started making plans to reconnect with buildOn. They wanted to visit a new country and have another unique building experience. Courtney started raising money that November, mostly through email solicitations, and she is planning two fundraisers this year.

The women are looking for approximately 12 other interested buildOn youth service alumni who have been on treks and who are now young professionals. “In our minds, someone who has gone on a trek, who has had an experience of no running water and no electricity will be in less of a shell shock,” Courtney says. She expects that the group’s adult experiences will provide fresh perspective and enrich their impact on the country in need that they visit.

If you’d like to participate in the trek, contact Courtney at

Current city: New York, New York

High school attended: New Canaan High School in New Canaan, Conn.

Years at buildOn: 2001 to 2005

How did buildOn change your life?

I think it really exposed me to something that was larger than myself and made me feel inspired.

How has buildOn made a difference in your community?

It made a huge impact. We used to volunteer once a month at a soup kitchen as a whole club in Westport and loved that experience. We really made certain bonds with that community and the people that we were serving.

What are your favorite memories working with buildOn?

Certainly going on the trek to Nicaragua. You’re exposed to things you’re not previously exposed to. You’re in a really rural village forming a sense of unity with members, collaborating on something positive. I still talk to many, many people from my trek… I lived with another from the Bronx. We lived in a home with four generations. The grandma wouldn’t talk to me. The last day when I left she smiled and waved.

What have you done since graduating high school?

I work at the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, a nonprofit based in New York that helps parents prevent, intervene and treat drug and alcohol abuse with their children. I’m with the media group locally. We distribute public service announcements.

Complete this sentence: buildOn is…

…an incredibly powerful organization that truly changes lives for good.