Near the heart of Downtown Napa resides New Technology High School.  Though modest in size, the impact this school and its program, formally named “Napa to Nicaragua,” has been making is anything, but minuscule.  Through an organization known as “Outreach360,” students were able to form a team and to start fundraising for our service trip right away.  Recruiting began as soon as possible and in no time the team reached around 20 volunteers/students.

This is the third year Nexqw Tech has been running their club within the school and the numbers have increased in terms of student volunteers.  Now bear in mind, this whole process is without a doubt no overnight ordeal.  In fact, our trip this past spring break was the result of a whole year of fundraising, sales, promoting, advertising and even a few students (me included) traveling to Rotary Clubs all across the valley to present our idea in hopes to get more financial support.  Most of our fundraising involved selling both olive oil and, during the second year of fundraising, coffee!  It was a long trek, but we finally fundraised enough money for all the students to go on a spring trip to The Dominican Republic.

From the center of Wine Country all the way over to the tropical island of The Dominican Republic, New Technology High School has been sending eager students with the longing for giving embedded in their hearts to go and teach the children of these third world countries.  Upon arriving in The Dominican Republic (where I chose to volunteer since I had volunteered in Nicaragua during the year prior) we were greeted by the most loving, compassionate and welcoming community of people I had ever experienced throughout all my travels.  The residents of Monte Cristi have this unique and impressive way of making you feel at home even when your home is 3,264 miles away.

Now, I work with children often in my life.  I find that much of my time can be found teaching children about theater and acting while I’m not busy writing, making music or even acting on stage myself.  Throughout these artistic excursions, I do tend to find myself working with and establishing priceless connections with kids from all over the valley, but I had never felt a sort of connection this deeply before with a group of children.  Their thirst for learning and their endless curiosity led a vast array of chances to bring kids in the small town of Monte Cristi together through a family like community, which we built through our very own learning camp.

I spent my week teaching the kids not only English, but about music and even the ocean!  That was hardly a chore considering they are two subjects in which I am very fond of.  Over time, kids became more open, more confident, more connected with one another and able to demonstrate their newfound knowledge in the world around them proudly. Nothing could compare to the feeling I had when I saw that happen right before my eyes.  Something that seemed so simple really did make a huge impact on these young individuals, but know that small steps can come together to paint the bigger picture, and these individuals all make up the beautiful community that so graciously welcomed our team. I will always be eternally thankful.

I could easily say that taking a week out of my summer vacation and spring break to teach the children was by far the highlight of my high school years so far.  Seeing the impact it makes on the children and the boost in their self-esteem with a simple “I believe in you,” there’s no better feeling.  I have high hopes and nothing, but a good feeling about the future of Napa to Nicaragua and other places like The Dominican Republic. In terms of continuous fundraising, we will still be selling coffee imported from Columbia and Olive Oil as well.  The next service trip will be taking place in Summer of 2017, so until then, stay tuned for ways you could help fund us and keep making these service trips happen and keep making these children’s dreams a reality.

Editor’s side note:  This summer Michael will be publishing two independent books, one a poetry book entitled “Paper Cut” and the second, “The Rainbow Room,” a non fiction book that gives the readers an inside look into the struggles and trials of a student in the American Education system with learning disabilities and other challenges.  You can also see Michael performing around the valley as an up and coming singer/songwriter.  He is truly an amazing young man.  To reach Michael, email:

If you are an inspiring student writer and would like to be published in Napa Valley Life Magazine, email Kari Ruel at  NVL