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Washington Voices

Seeing from a global view

Thu., June 4, 2009

Fish takes her goodwill to El Salvador, beyond

Fueled by friendship, Laurel Fish is a global community servant.

Before heading off to college, St. George’s School senior Laurel Fish is heading back to El Salvador to work eight to nine months for a social justice organization. The South Hill resident has gone several times already, forging friendships with the people in the small town of Huisisilapa while deepening her desire to help them as much as she can.

As part of a Spokane student organization called Los Hermanos, Fish has helped raise enough money to fund the Huisisilapa high school’s expenses for five years, about $50,000 total.

“It is actually the only rural high school in all of El Salvador,” said Fish, noting that without this high school the students there would not have access to education, something most Americans take for granted.

Those experiences, said Fish, have made her grateful for her own education and made her feel a sense of solidarity with the community in El Salvador and beyond.

“Having friendships that far away makes me care about the whole world more,” Fish said. “The thing that keeps me going is part of my heart is there in the community and it is not just fundraising because it has a much deeper purpose. It is my friends that are able to go to school because of the high school.”

The primary organizer of Fish’s trips to El Salvador, Phyllis Andersen, has known Fish most of her life and described Fish as committed, responsible and passionate. “When she is committed to something she stays with it. Most high school kids get distracted with their own needs and wants. She is just not selfish that way at all.”

According to teachers, that giving nature has been seen throughout her time at St. George’s. Recently she built on her fundraising experience and passion for people by working with other students to spearhead a St. George’s scholarship endowment in memory of Deena Barber, a St. George’s teacher who died last year.

“That is the kind of person Laurel is. She will tear up, very soft inside, but physically tough as nails,” said Karl Revells, head of the Upper School at St. George’s. He described Fish as humble, hardworking and driven by her passions. “If you met her on the street you would never guess the type of projects and commitments she has. She is very unassuming.”

As a student, said Revells, Fish “is not just satisfied with doing the normal work and getting the A. The A is going to come but she delves deep …. When it is time for awards she could easily walk away with most of them …. She is quietly aggressive. She is like an English bulldog, sinks her teeth into something and won’t let go.”

She has also leveraged those skills on the debate team. Fish and her debate partner, Joe LeDuc, are nationally ranked, were fourth in state and qualified for nationals, where they will compete in June.

“She is a wicked debater. She is exceptionally smart and insightful and also advocates passionately for what she believes in,” said debate coach and English teacher Chad Rigsby. “As a debater one of the most interesting things about her is she is always reconsidering what she knows as she learns more. She does that in an ethical sense. She takes everything she learns at school and she applies it to her moral view of the world and is always willing to reevaluate it, which is really refreshing.”

“We always want to stand out as role models,” said Revells. “With Laurel you get the feeling sometimes that you are standing in her shadow. Thinking about her would give you pause to look at yourself with introspection.”

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