Kelsie Nau has been on three Bridges trips to Nicaragua with Arlington High School and has been greatly impacted by the Bridges experience. She says, “I was having a rough time before high school and Bridges completely changed me forever.”
Kelsie admits that she was apprehensive before going on the trip. She says, “In all honesty, I didn’t know what to expect. When we first got there, I thought to myself, ‘it is so hot, how am I going to be able to adapt?’ But, as soon as we got to the school in Las Conchitas where we were staying, all the kids came running toward us. At that moment, I realized that I loved it and later I realized this is what I loved doing and what I want to do with my life…and I didn’t expect any of it: how kind everyone was and how much I looked up to the staff. It is so hard to describe how amazing it was.
On my first trip, I worked on Doña Alicia and her family’s house. I was so surprised that, even though I don’t speak any Spanish, we got so close. I was so impacted by the fact that she was giving me bracelets and shirts because she found out my favorite color was purple, and so is hers. It’s just incredible because I saw the conditions where she had been living and her economic situation, but she was giving me so much. It completely blew me away, and I still have every little thing she gave me. I also have pictures of the family hanging on the wall in my dorm room.
On my third trip, I had the chance to go back to Doña Alicia’s house, and I fell in love with the family all over again. I remember so distinctly that Alicia’s youngest daughter Allison was outside when we pulled up. When I met Allison, she was only 5 years old, and I thought she wouldn’t remember me. However, as soon as she saw me, she came running toward me while screaming my name and gave me a big hug. Everyone came out crying to hug me. I was astonished that they remembered me. I learned that Allison’s grandparents had moved into the house because they lost their home and had nowhere else to go. It was awe-inspiring to see how the family had made the house a home after we left.
My second and third trips continued to impact me. House after house, so many community members showed up to do their part and contribute to the project that there almost wasn’t enough work for everybody. The whole community must have shown up. I think there might have been 30 or 40 community members shoveling, picking up cement. It was such a close community and so wonderful to be a part of that community feeling.”
Kelsie credits Bridges with having impacted not only her perspective and worldview but also her life plan. She is now a sophomore at Mount Saint Mary College studying social work with a minor in psychology. She says, “All of my plans for my future lead back to Bridges; it all starts there. My original plan was to work in law enforcement, but, because of my Bridges experiences, I realized that what I want to do is help others, so I chose to study social work. This is the closest thing to Bridges that I can do to help my community. Eventually, I’d like to do a masters in school counseling and become a high school counselor. That way, I can impact younger people to have similar experiences like my Bridges experience.”
*Note: This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.