When Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico in the fall of 2017, a group of iLEAD learners saw a great need and wanted to help. That’s when the vision for Backpacks Full of Hope began to take shape. Meet the learners who envisioned the mission and launched the team’s first annual trip to Puerto Rico in 2018.
Connor (class of 2020) is a founding learner with SCVi/iLEAD. Connor and his mom, Amber, cofounder of SCVi and iLEAD Schools, were the impetus for Backpacks Full of Hope, calling upon the school community to take action in 2017. Connor designed the Backpacks Full of Hope logo that appears on the group’s T-shirts and, yes, on their backpacks too! Connor said, “To be able to go to another region and lend a hand in whatever way I can sounds very exciting and is something I love to do. There is always work to be done, and you can never give enough help.”
Luke (class of 2022), an SCVi learner since kindergarten, was excited about the vision of Backpacks Full of Hope as soon as he learned about it. His immediate answer to the invitation to participate? “I’m in!” As the team worked to replant the Puerto Rican forests, he proved to be unstoppable despite the heat, humidity, and difficult terrain. After the trip, he said, “This project changed the way I kind of looked at the world; it gave everyone who went on the trip a better understanding of the outside world. How lucky we are to have what we have: a roof over our heads, clean water, a school — the list goes on. I felt driven to go because there were people in need, and I wanted to make a difference in their lives.”
Backpacks Full of Hope gave Isa (class of 2019) an opportunity not only to help rebuild Puerto Rico but to reconnect with her Puerto Rican roots. She was very active in furthering the team’s vision, spreading the word far and wide and gathering a large load of new clothing to donate. She was also instrumental in the planning of the trip and its fundraising efforts. Isa was a shining example to others with her strong yet quiet leadership. She solidified the group’s ties to multiple Southern California Rotary Clubs, including giving a presentation to a large group of Rotarians in Manhattan Beach that garnered a $1,000 donation toward the trip.
Adin (class of 2021), who joined SCVi in 2009, has always been deeply involved with SCVi and iLEAD events. He became an active leader in the planning and fundraising processes of Backpacks Full of Hope. One thing that has impacted him deeply during his involvement with Backpacks Full of Hope is contributing to building hurricane shelters with the Earthship PR construction project. He’s happy to be a global citizen and hopes to continue participating in service trips in the future.
While Dane (class of 2028) was the youngest founding Backpacker, he certainly didn’t fall behind when it came to work time. In fact, he inspired the team with his energy, enthusiasm, and productivity — both in the forests and at play during downtime!
Oliver (class of 2021) is a veteran Boy Scout and Venture Scout. For him, the inaugural trip of Backpacks Full of Hope was about hearing the people’s pleas for assistance and being motivated to respond. He said, “I felt obligated to go because I have been taught to show kindness to all.” After the trip, he said, “The bonding with the people of Puerto Rico was ingrained in all of us, and we determined before we left that we needed to return.”
Nikias (class of 2020) was an essential part of the team.
Angie brought so much heart and dedication with her.
Adrian (class of 2019) inspired everyone on the adventure.
With a projected timeline of seven years to fully recover, the island of Puerto Rico continues to rebuild, and iLEAD learners have returned annually to help.