Some aspiring Eagle Scouts build sections of Tahoe Rim Trail for their final service project, while others adopt a section of town to clean-up. Kody Dangtongdee wanted to do something different, and last March he departed for Thailand to distribute water filters to a rural community in need.
"I wanted to go beyond the normal Eagle Scout project, but still benefit a wide range of people," Dangtongdee said.
It wasn't Dangtongdee's first time in the country - the Whittell High School senior had already visited members of his Taiwanese family more than half a dozen times - but it was his first experience with the particular school in the Phichit Province. Dangtongdee and his father, Boyd, worked with children ages 10 to 12 years old during the two weeks they spent in the country, distributing the filters and other donations.
The days were long and tiring, but rewarding, Boyd Dangtongdee said. His son, who'd raised roughly $2,000 over the course of more than a year for the trip, learned about how people on the other side of the world live. Taking the Eagle Scout project overseas broadened both the project's scope and his son's awareness, Body Dangtongdee said.
"I believe it was a life-changing moment for him. You saw some kids who just had nothing. I think he learned how not to take life for granted," he said.
The WHS student listed the Air Force Academy in Colorado and the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. as his top university picks. He said he wants to serve his county as an officer, and that the trip to Thailand helped not only his resume but also his leadership skills.
"The experience was very humbling. The kids didn't have clean water, the boy scouts didn't have clean shirts or uniforms," he said.
Aisling "Lulu" Peterson might be one of the youngest students on the Lake Tahoe Community College campus, but she doesn't let that phase her. After living in the heartland of Brazil for 11 months, very few challenges daunt the 16-year-old.
"It's difficult but it's nothing that I can't handle. It doesn't scare me," Peterson said.
The LTCC freshman graduated from South Tahoe High School this year after spending almost a year abroad in Brazil with the South Lake Tahoe Rotary Club student exchange program.
She said she hit the ground running as soon as she arrived in the Brasilia airport. Peterson, who knew only rudimentary Portuguese when she landed and couldn't find the host family that was supposed to be waiting for her, admitted it was one of the scariest moments of her life. Yet she still dove right in. She'd always wanted to experience a study abroad trip and linguistics interested her, she said.
Peterson toured on the Amazon, attended a Brazilian school, visited Rio de Janerio, and formed numerous friendships during her time in the country. The program helped her take challenges in stride and view life through a calmer lens, she said.
"I look at life from a different perspective. I look at myself as a citizen of the world more than a citizen of the U.S. We are, more than ever, global citizens. We have the Internet and all these opportunities to visit other people. The world is becoming more globalized, and if you don't see that you're going to be left behind," Peterson said.