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1/18/2011 2:56:00 PM
Freshmen take challenge to change the world
Marist High School photo by Toni Cooper
Marist students Stephanie Coulombe and Sean Dorsey flank teacher Peter Muilenburg.
Marist High School photo by Toni Cooper
Marist students Stephanie Coulombe and Sean Dorsey flank teacher Peter Muilenburg.
Ray Ferrari


EUGENE — Marist High School students have completed more than 6,200 hours of Christian service, with around 300 of them served outside of Oregon. And that’s just the seniors.

Two inspiring freshmen have recently gone above and beyond in their service to others, which are not tied to the Christian service hours required to graduate. When Marist world history teacher Peter Muilenburg assigned his second quarter project, he wasn’t expecting his students to take it so far.

After a quarter of studying the Middle East and Southern Asia, Muilenburg’s assignment had two choices: create a project demonstrating acquired knowledge or create a service project to combat global climate change or promote women’s rights in India or China.

Marist freshmen Sean Dorsey and Stephanie Coulombe decided to focus on the women of Vrindavan, India. When considering what to do, Dorsey said he “wanted to not only get a good grade, but to truly help those in need.”

To help the Indian widows residing in Vrindivan, Dorsey and Coulombe gathered money from people in their neighborhoods and held a collection at St. Paul Parish in Eugene, resulting in a sum of more than $1,200, with donations still coming in. The project has concluded, but these students believe the impact made on them will be a permanent one.

Sometimes known as the “City of Widows, Vrindivan is home almost 20,000 widows. They live on the streets because local culture outlaws remarriage.  

One of Muilenburg’s former co-workers went to a presentation by The Society for Social Uplift Through Rural Action (SUTRA) and learned about some of the issues in India. Now in his second year at Marist, Muilenburg assigned this project to his freshmen, hoping they would learn about connections between the past and present and see that some of the world’s problems began centuries ago, such as women’s rights struggles in India.  

“I never intended the project to take off like this,” said Muilenburg, “I’ve been impressed with how the issues have impacted the kids.”

The noble works of the freshmen underscore the education and service emphasized by Catholic schools across the nation.

“I realized how lucky we are after seeing that some people really are suffering,” said Coulombe.

Giving back to the community and helping others are values instilled in every Catholic school student. “Taking the classroom into the world and making the learning completely genuine is the best kind of learning,” said Muilenburg.

The writer is a senior at Marist and co-editor of the school newspaper.



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