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Vista Charter Academy Teacher Seeks Donations Before Going Abroad

Lynnea Brooks knew since she became a teacher that she wanted to educate abroad. That time is rapidly approaching, spawned in part because of a fortuitous camping trip.

Whether it was because she married right out of college or the COVID-19 pandemic, the timing never lined up for Brooks to teach in another country. Now, Vista Charter Academy’s K-5 literacy at risk teacher is headed to Njoro, Kenya, from June 15-28 through Our Journey Academy, a nonprofit organization. She is one of four from Michigan going on the mission trip to teach in a first grade classroom.

“I had a lot of friends after they got out of college, they were going to go do work in other countries, and I always thought that sounded amazing and it’d be something that I would like to try some time,” she said.

Students learning at a table.
Lynnea Brooks is in her sixth year at Vista Charter Academy.
Brooks’ trip to Kenya came about during her annual summer camping trip at Lincoln Pines Resort in Gowen, Mich. Fortunately, near her campsite was Angela Freed, who is on the Our Journey board of directors and has participated in the mission since 2010. As they became acquainted, Brooks learned about the work the organization does in Kenya.

COVID put Brooks’ plans on hold, but she felt the stars were aligning for her to teach in Africa after finding out her daughter’s college roommate was from Kenya. The capper was when she learned one of her students at Vista was named Kenya.

Students learning at a table.
Lynnea Brooks will be teaching in Njoro, Kenya, from June 15-28.
“The opportunity never presented itself until now when I met Angela,” Brooks said. “I knew that this would be the right time. If I’m gonna do it, this is the time to do it.”

Our Journey focuses on community-based projects emphasizing self-reliance for children and families living in desperate poverty. The organization is in the process of building a first grade classroom that will be in operation while Brooks is there. Brooks will create six learning lessons for math and reading along with providing professional development for teachers.

Before she departs, Brooks needs materials. She set up a GoFundMe page, with proceeds going toward food supplies, mattresses, school uniforms, backpacks, and shoes for the 12 families Freed sponsors, along with possibly putting in a greenhouse. The money also will supply items from teachers’ “wish lists” that can be purchased in the town. Brooks also is holding a $25 per person fundraiser from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, May 22, at The Fowling Warehouse in Grand Rapids that includes a silent auction.

Children standing with their teacher.
Lynnea Brooks is the K-5 literacy at risk teacher at Vista Charter Academy.
Brooks is looking forward to learning more about a new culture and working with the kids the most. One of her favorite memories from her six years at Vista was helping a new first-grade scholar who couldn’t speak English. The student was at first hesitant communicating by using a phone to translate, but Brooks established trust and helped him make great strides over two years.

“It is just amazing how much he’s reading now and understanding English,” she said. “Now we have full-on conversations rather than having my phone translating you back and forth. Now I can’t get him to stop talking.”
Keep up the excellent work, Ms. Brooks!

Vista Charter Academy is a free public charter school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, serving students in Young 5s through eighth grade. National Heritage Academies (NHA), a charter school management company in Grand Rapids, Mich. has over 95 tuition-free, public charter schools across nine states, serving more than 60,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. For more information, visit