Welch headed to Africa

By Lauren Cullen
Managing Editor

At the end of this summer, most Westford Academy graduates will be heading off to college, and will be scrambling around to make sure they have everything they need for their first year at college.  As senior Dayle Welch’s classmates get ready for their freshman year, she will be preparing for a three month service program in East Africa.

Welch will leave at the end of September and will spend time in Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda. Her trip will end in late December, and after coming home for a break she will go on another service program.

Welch did a service trip to Jamaica in her junior year with her church, and said she greatly enjoyed it. While doing college tours in the spring of her junior year and then later in the summer, she realized she wasn’t very interested in them.

“My mom was actually the one who noticed that I wasn’t very excited about the colleges… she was the one to suggest a gap year,” said Welch.

Welch soon decided that a gap year would be a good way to help people in need and give herself some time to figure out what she wanted to major in in college. Welch and her parents met with guidance counselor Wendy Pecachek and expressed Welch’s interest in a gap year.

Pecachek was immediately on board with the idea, and said she was very impressed by how supportive Welch’s parents were of her plan to participate in a gap year program.

“I thought it was a wonderful idea,” said Pecachek. “She was so excited because her parents were supportive of her gap year. A lot of parents are worried if a student takes a year off that they’re not going to go to college, and it was nice to see [that her parents were supportive].”

Through the guidance department, Welch found the Center of Interim Studies and began to work with an additional counselor there who specializes in advising students on gap years.

Welch told her gap year advisor that she was interested in working with children, and he matched her to the program she will be taking part in next year. Welch and her advisor are still working on finding a program for the second part of next year, since she will only be spending three months in Africa.

At the start of this year, Pecachek helped Welch with her college applications and the deferment process. Other than that, Pecachek said Welch took over finding programs and applying on her own.

Pecachek said she is proud of Welch for doing something that is somewhat uncommon at WA and taking part in such a fulfilling program.

“This is a big risk for her, to do something different… when everyone else around you is doing one thing, and then you decide to do something else that is completely different,” said Pecachek. “The idea of so much being unknown and embracing life and the future that way is exciting.”

Although it is hard to say exactly what she will be doing while on the trip, Welch knows it will include many things like building houses and other buildings for the children in the area and even some work with animals. She will be living at several different places as well, including home stays, tents, and hostels.

“At one point, we’re going to a rhino conservation to work,” Welch said. “In Tanzania, there’s even a three day safari we’re going on.”

“Any work that she does helping other people I am sure will be successful.”

Welch said she is looking forward to her trip and said she thinks it will give her a greater appreciation for life in the United States. However, she thinks it could be difficult at first to adjust. While on the trip, she is not allowed to have a cell phone, and since her group will be moving around so much, it will be a challenge to send or receive mail. In some areas, there are computer cafes where she will be able to access her emails in her free time, but there will not be a lot of that on her trip.

Overall, she is excited to take part in such a unique trip and cannot wait to get started.

“I am very excited and can’t wait to go,” she said.

Pecachek said she expects nothing but success from Welch’s future.

“I’m thrilled for her,” said Pecachek. “Any work that she does helping other people I am sure will be successful.”