ONCE A SOMMER! Sommer Fowler happily smiles alongside her English students in Cambodia. (Picture Courtesy of Sommer Fowler)


By Michelle Lin

For four weeks throughout June, senior Sommer Fowler had the unique opportunity of volunteering to teach English to underprivileged students in Cambodia.

“(The trip) was an independent thing.  I didn’t go with an organization; it was just me and my mom,” explains Sommer.  “We randomly selected a school in a smaller town of Cambodia.  I went over there to ask for an opportunity to volunteer, and they so graciously gave me three different classes of 40 students.”

Self-funding the entire trip, Sommer taught eighth graders between the ages of ten and sixteen the material from the US’s version of fourth grade level books.

“I was given a lot of free range to do whatever sort of lesson I wanted,” recounts Sommer.  “Talking to (the students) a few hours on the first day, I noticed what they needed help on and picked out something that I thought I could help them on.”

The school system in Cambodia is vastly different from that of America.  With a society that holds education at a much lower standard than America’s ideals, students in Cambodia often lack respect towards learning.

“It blew me away that they could be so careless about what we’ve got as entire institutions here,” expresses Sommer.  “I think (the experience) increased my value for education.”

Throughout the school year, Sommer also participates on the PHHS Cross Country team.  Outside of school, she trains for marathons and ultramarathons, which are 26.2 miles long races typically held on trails.

“There’s a big leap between a marathon and an ultramarathon.  The time that it takes to train for one of them is incredibly crazy,” states Sommer.  “I have to set off seven hours of running on the weekend to prepare for an ultramarathon.”

Sommer is currently scheduled to run her first twelve hour race this December and her first 50 miler in April.


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