TAMPA, Fla. — Lauren Shell is ready to build a bus stop in Costa Rica.
Never mind that she's never left the United States before.
"I'm excited but nervous at the same time," said the eighth-grader at Tampa's Roland Park Magnet School. "We're going to make a difference."
Shell and 17 classmates will spend their summer before high school as "Roland Park International Ambassadors," an innovative and successful program launched a few years ago to make kids more well-rounded: emotionally, personally, and academically.
In Costa Rica, they will be in a position to help people in need: building bus stops, planting trees, and just being good helpful human beings.
"This is a real coming-of-age summer for them," said Cara von Ancken, Roland Park's assistant principal who will join the students on the life-changing trip. "This is getting them out of their comfort zone."
Some students are paying their own freight, others won scholarship money for the trip.
But teacher Melissa Davidson, who leads the international program, said all of the students will be changed for the better.
"About halfway through the trip, you see a change come over them," she said. "They start appreciating things they have that maybe they took for granted before."