Shore Educators Help Build School In Dominican Republic

Ronald Sanasac, who serves as assistant superintendent in the Howell School District, joins a fellow volunteer in building a school in Constanza in the Dominican Republic. (Photo provided by Lifetouch Memory Mission)

  HOWELL – Assistant Superintendent for Business Administration/Board Secretary Ronald Sanasac has been helping build a better school district locally but last month he helped build an actual school with the help of fellow educators.

  The administrator’s journey to Constanza in the Dominican Republic was part a special effort of Lifetouch Memory Mission where he joined around 50 other educators and Lifetouch/Shutterfly employees.

  Recently, the volunteers helped complete the Cecaini Rio Grande school which is a project Lifetouch has been involved with since 2011.

  During this volunteer trip, Sanasac took part in not only construction work for the project but the team of volunteers held a school picture day and a picture day for the community.

  Constanza is in the center of the Dominican Republic surrounded by mountains and natural beauty. The primary vocation is working in the fields to support the agriculture trade. 

Picture Day was a major event during the week of Assistant Superintendent Ronald Sanasac’s visit to the Dominican Republic where he and other volunteers interacted with students who will attend a school that he and other volunteers helped to build. (Photo provided by Lifetouch Memory Mission)

  In 2011, Lifetouch learned of the community and the shortage of schools. Most children did not have an option to go to school and were summoned to follow their parents’ footsteps.

  Sanasac said, “Lifetouch is a national school photography vendor that has been involved in similar programs along with NSBA, ASSA and other groups for a long time. I had seen presentations numerous times at various NSBA or other conventions. At several of the events I ‘entered’ to be considered and was fortunate this year to be selected. It is my understanding it is a random drawing.”

  This marked Sanasac’s first year on the Lifetouch Memory Mission. Each year, new volunteers from across the country apply though a “lottery” type application process and 40 people are selected. This is the 17th Lifetouch Memory Mission and eighth trip to Constanza, Dominican Republic.

  “The trip was extremely rewarding to assist with creating the opportunity for a better education for a larger number of children in Constanza. The interaction with educators from across the USA and Canada was amazing and extremely interesting to discuss the varied issues and our common goals. There was absolutely a bond and a ‘many hands make light work’ spirit,” Sanasac said.

  This year’s Picture Day activity incorporated school photography and family portraits. Equipment in one of the classrooms was set up and photographs were taken of each student and staff member. 

  “We encourage the principals, superintendents, NPTA, NBSA members to get involved and actually take the pictures. It is very rewarding for the educators to capture the smiles of the students and build the relationship with them during the process. One of the superintendents was fluent in Spanish so she became our translator and helped each student as they came to the camera,” said Jan Haeg, manager of Give Back Programs at Lifetouch.

  Haeg added that during the week of the trip “a few teams went door to door in the community of Villa Poppy and photographed the families in front of their new homes. All of the images were uploaded to the Shutterfly production facility in Fort Mill, SC and within 24 hours the lab manager flew to the Dominican Republic with a suitcase full of portraits ready for delivery.” 

  “The picture days for the students and families was amazing. The pride and excitement exhibited by the recipients was wonderful. I was honored to represent many facets of our community and district. The outpouring of support in material and monetary donations was truly humbling,” Sanasac said.

Photo provided by Lifetouch Memory Mission

  “We hosted a community picnic and delivered the pictures to the families. In many cases they had never seen a picture of themselves. One volunteer said, ‘I watched this older gentleman look at this family picture and kissed it. That picture is 10 times more important than anything we have at home,’” Haeg said.

  The next day it was time to hand out the school pictures. “The students were quickly exchanging wallets with each other and providing pictures to the volunteers to remember them by,” Haeg said. “Now, the two new schools provide the opportunity for over 500 children to go to school every day.”

  Sanasac said, “I took two suitcases filled with items from the Howell Municipal Alliance, the Howell Township Education Foundation, Optimist Club, the Board of Education and numerous others. I was surprised at the recognition at the recent School Board meeting. I did not expect it but appreciate their support.”

  “Overall it was a great rewarding experience with a lot of great people demonstrating servant leadership,” Sanasac said.