Alessia Mattioli had given up on her high school dreams of studying abroad.
A 24-year-old single mother earning a nursing degree while caring for a special-needs child and working at a hospital, she had almost no free time. But in her final year at Rutgers University–Camden, she received an email about a class called Health and Healing in Guatemala. The engaged civic-learning course would take place over spring break. It revived her dream. “I told myself, ‘It’s 10 days. I can do 10 days.’”
Mattioli’s parents supported her idea to go on the trip and would care for her son. She arranged for the time off from work and dove headlong into the reading assignments and class meetings prior to the trip.
She was glad she did. Her experience in a jungle mountain village—conducting health screenings, training midwives on contraception methods, educating residents on diet, and building vented stoves for families to help them avoid smoke inhalation while cooking—resonated deeply. “I conquered fears, touched more lives than I could have hoped for, and my own life was changed in so many positive ways,” said Mattioli, a Glassboro, New Jersey, resident who earned her bachelor’s degree two months after the 2017 trip and now works as a nurse at Cooper University Hospital.
Read the full story »