Geritza Carrasco (CS photo by Jaclyn Lippelmann)
Geritza Carrasco (CS photo by Jaclyn Lippelmann)

The summer before she began attending Connelly School of the Holy Child in Potomac, Geritza Carrasco traveled to the Dominican Republic with her dad, who is from that country, in order to help improve his friends’ neighborhoods. She and her dad, who used to work in construction, met up with other friends to do things like paint, plant gardens and put up new walls.

She returned two more times during high school to do similar work, and in her freshman year at Holy Child she founded the Habitat for Humanity club at the school, which raises money to donate to the charity by placing jars around the school to collect change and hosting fundraisers like tag days, bake sales, and nights where local restaurants donate a percentage of proceeds to Habitat for Humanity.

Each year, the club chose a different country to focus on, and many of them were close to Carrasco’s heart in different ways. The first year they chose Nicaragua, where her mother is from, and the second year they chose Costa Rica, where she had spent a few weeks in the summer for an exchange program. Her junior year, they focused on Haiti, and her senior year they chose the Dominican Republic.

During her exchange program in Costa Rica, she spent a few days working with a day-care and afterschool program designed to keep kids off of the streets of San José.

“Seeing faces of kids who are struggling more than I can imagine – it was heartbreaking, but it was real,” she said.

Carrasco also volunteers at the nursing home where her grandmother lives. Her volunteer work began when she was visiting her grandmother frequently, and she began to notice a group of the residents who would always be sitting in the common space.

One day, she decided to sit down and start talking to them, and before long she was going nearly every week. It evolved into playing games with them, going with them to the grocery store, or helping them with other tasks.

“I see these little small things,” she said. “Someone might smile for the first time in a while, or someone might be more talkative.”

Gradually, more and more people started joining the group. Carrasco said she kept going because she knows some of them don’t get many visits, since their family does not live near them.

“It is a little friendship I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” she said. “…They have so much to share at their age. I think it is beautiful.”

While Carrasco has service requirements for the National Honor Society, which she is a part of, she said she always tries to seek out service opportunities that are meaningful to her.

“I’ve tried to find what I like, because if I find service that I enjoy…I can have that run through my whole life; it won’t feel like just jotting down three hours of service,” she said.

Carrasco recalled that when she was first applying to high schools, she had no interest in attending an all-girls school, and it was only when her parents encouraged her to consider Holy Child that she agreed to shadow and see what it was like. When she did, she “saw how happy people were here,” and she changed her mind.

“The feeling, when you walk in, the aura, you can’t miss it,” she said. “Everyone is happy to be here, in the moment… The sensation you get on campus is indescribable.”

This year, Carrasco has helped showcase her love for the community through videography for the school’s admissions department. After she produced the video for the school’s “Senior Day,” the school asked her to make another video for their open house.

She began carrying around a video camera for a few weeks and taking videos of different things happening at the school, and put it all together into a brief video about what it is like to go to Holy Child.

“That first open house video got me really excited,” she said, because while she had always been interested in videos, she had never worked on them seriously before.

Throughout the year, she continued to collaborate with the school’s communications and admissions offices, which would rent equipment for her to use to make videos.

“It doesn’t feel like I’m making a video for communications or admissions, it feels like I’m documenting an important part of Holy Child, which I love,” she said.

Now, she is considering a career in journalism, because in addition to videography, she also enjoys writing and photography. Next year, she will be attending Georgetown University, where she is thinking about majoring in English and minoring in Film and Media Studies.

Carrasco said she is going to miss that “indescribable” feeling of being on campus, and said she has come to appreciate how accepting the school is of every student who goes there.

“There are so many different types of girls here who are encouraged to follow their own interests and nurture their own selves,” she said. “I had never belonged to a community like that where everyone loves themselves and everyone around them.”