Nevada Union senior plans trip to Africa |

Nevada Union senior plans trip to Africa

Nevada Union High School senior Tessa Fernandez is raising money to volunteer in a nursery school in Africa.

While some Nevada Union High School graduates will be looking forward to college, or landing their first real-world job next summer, Tessa Fernandez will be in Tanzania, nurturing children more than 9,500 miles away from the home she has known her whole life.

“When I was younger, I was always very connected to the tribal aspect, I really appreciate and admire their beliefs,” Fernandez said. “I’ve been reading different books about tribes there and it’s just all very interesting to me and very intriguing. I just look at it like the world is our home, and I really would like to meet different cultures, and this is the first one that is screaming at me to come.”

Fernandez, 17, first decided to take the journey after a teacher, Louise McFadden, encouraged her to apply to Cross Cultural Solutions. The program gives volunteers the opportunity to work in third-world countries, as part of a group, through an intensive program that allows people to help tribal villages.

Participants, though, have to raise $9,000 to fund the entire three-month trip. Fernandez has decided to chronicle the process she is taking to raise the funds for her trip, and make it her senior project she calls, “When two worlds collide.”

“I’m very passionate about the youth. I believe the love and nurture toward a baby is very important for one’s life for when they grow up.”
Tessa Fernandez

“She’s got a long road ahead of her,” McFadden said. “But I think Tessa is up for the challenge, I mean for a young person to have that drive and commitment, that’s the epitome of a senior project. It’s really a multilayered goal, but I think Tessa can do it.”

Nevada Joint Union High School District board member Jim Adams was introduced to Fernandez by McFadden, and has since helped her with the project.

“She has a strong desire to fulfill this goal in her life with this mission trip, and she definitely is dedicated to trying to expand her horizons, and I think this is one of the methods she is utilizing to accomplish that,” Adams said.

“I always think that if a student has a strong desire for anything in their life, they need to chase it, and they need to chase it with great spirit and enthusiasm.”

Fernandez says her desire to help others abroad dates back to when she was just a child. According to Fernandez, her grandparents were English as a Second Language teachers who traveled abroad, while her mother spent more than eight years in Saudi Arabia.

“I come from a traveling family,” Fernandez said. “That wasn’t necessarily my goal when I was younger, I was going to go to college, I was going to go to fashion school and I wanted to do all that, and I still want to do that. But recently, just this past year, I’ve just woken up and realized that if I go straight into college, it would be a mistake. So I’m going to take my gap year and do this.”

Fernandez said she chose to go to Africa because of her fascination with third-world countries, and that she wanted to join the Peace Corps but she didn’t have a necessary degree to apply.

Still longing to help abroad, Fernandez did some research on other programs that would allow her to volunteer with helping children. Cross Cultural Solutions, Fernandez said, was a great option.

“I’m very passionate about the youth. I believe the love and nurture toward a baby is very important for one’s life for when they grow up,” Fernandez said. “I picked going to Africa because it just felt right to me, and I felt I could do a lot and give a lot of myself while I’m there.”

Fernandez says she wants to help out at a nursery school in Tanzania, and has been working at Nora’s Play School in Grass Valley this summer to learn more about caring and nurturing for young children, while also saving up money to help fund her trip.

“I want to immerse myself into their culture, and really understand how they think and learn so I can better give myself and help them,” Fernandez said. “Not really teach them my way, but give them the love and nurture that they need and help with the youth that way. I am not one of those people that are saying I want to go save Africa. I’m not thinking that way.”

Fernandez has raised a little less than $3,000 for the trip so far, and has till Aug. 22, 2015 to raise the rest. She says she is still in the process of scheduling several fund-raising events throughout the year, but plans on doing a crab feed and auction, a raffle, and concert, among others.

“My brother had a concert for me at the Stonehouse in June, we raised a good amount of money,” Fernandez said. “We sold tickets in advance and then we sold them at the door, and we also sold merchandising for him and he ended up just giving me everything. I really learned how to organize a lot, it can be very, very hectic because you have all the ideas on paper, but when you’re in it you have to have everything set. It was all crazy but it was really, really fun.”

Fernandez says the trip to Africa will be a way for her to explore her career and future, and says she already knows she wants to go on another trip when she gets back.

“If I can go and help spread love and nurture and just be their for the youth then that’s where I want to be,” she said. “It’s all about the energy you give out, that will affect the generations to come.”

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To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email or call 530-477-4236.

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