Student Spotlight: Monica Niehaus


Senior Monica Nienhaus smiles for Newsprint.

Senior Monica Nienhaus smiles for Newsprint.
Senior Monica Nienhaus is looking forward to her service trip in African next year.

Safaris with exotic animals. The Great Pyramids in Egypt. A trip to Africa means fabulous sightseeing tours  to most people. But for senior Monica Niehaus, her upcoming visit to Africa is a chance to change lives.

During spring break, Niehaus plans to travel to Berkina Faso, a small African country located in the middle of the continent, to work with the Laafi Foundation, a French service organization aimed at helping the country. Berkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in Africa. Since it is landlocked, the country cannot use the ocean for trade or profit and has had a difficult time stabilizing its economy. The Laafi Foundation tries to teach citizens trades such as bee-keeping, to help people earn a living.

Niehaus plans to help in the nation’s capital, Ouagadougou. As an art student, she will paint murals and donate other pieces of original art to brighten the town and also teach children valuable lessons.

“Many people there can’t even read, they need visuals,” said Niehaus. “I hope to do a piece on AIDS awareness and hopefully some paintings of the villages.”

Along with her artistic contributions to the community, Niehaus will spend time with the local children and bring art supplies that they can use in the future. She knows that this trip could be life changing, not only for those she helps, but for herself too.

“I’m excited and apprehensive,” said Niehaus. “It’s a new opportunity that I’m grateful for, I’ve never experienced that culture before.”

This trip has been planned for many years by her family. She first heard about the organization through her parent’s friend and was immediately on board. Her mother also plans on meeting her there to serve as well. For both, this new experience and chance to help is what propels them on.

“It’s so different from everywhere else I’ve been,” said Niehaus. “I know it will be a life-changing and crazy experience.”