Sara Ann Rogle, 17, who graduated from Bowie High School today , said she has long wanted to be a teacher.
But after visiting Haiti last summer on a mission trip, the Bowie resident said she realized more than ever how much she wants to work with young children.
“Their faces lit up, and they were smiling and jumping around,” she said.
Rogle visited the capital, Port-au-Prince, during an August 2011 trip organized by Marilee Ness, youth coordinator at Bowie’s Christian Community Presbyterian Church, which Rogle attends.
“They were so glad we were there and to have fun with us,” said Rogle, who worked with as many as 200 children along with Ness and friends Christopher Leaman of Crofton and Daniel Casto of Bowie, who also went on the trip.
The group worked with another American church to visit orphaned children who had survived the 2010 earthquake that devastated the Caribbean nation and also host a summer Bible school in a church building in the capital.
“We took along boxes of toys, crayons and coloring books that we had collected,” said Rogle, who added she had done some babysitting but until then had not worked with large groups of children, and especially in a foreign country still struggling to recover from a disaster.
“I saw more of what I see in her,” said Casto, who has known Rogle for about five years. “She’s very caring. At first she was hesitant, but once she got out there, she didn’t want to stop helping.”
Ness said Rogle quickly became fast friends with a little girl with learning and physical disabilities.
“The little one wanted to be with her the whole time,” said Ness, who said word about the visiting Americans also spread among the other children in the area.
The number of children at the Bible school grew from 80 on the first day, to 150 the second to 200 the third, Ness said.
“She played and interacted with them ... and they would come up and hug her,” said Ness, who added that Rogle had a knack for connecting with children.
Rogle strikes the same balance in her singing in the madrigal choir at Bowie High, which Rogle has directed several times, said choir director Janna Ryon.
“She’s most definitely suited to be a teacher,” said Ryon. “She’s sweet and friendly, but she also knows how to take charge. She’s has a good way of instructing. She’s a natural leader.”
Rogle said she plans to study elementary and special education at Towson University starting in the fall, and she also said she wants to revisit Haiti at some point.
“It’s still in very bad shape, but the people have so much hope,” she said.