By Shelby Ashline
Corey John Pooler ’20 would rather better hundreds of other lives than focus on his own. It’s a way of being that he adopted from his parents, teachers, and coaches in Middleborough, where he grew up. “The people who constantly put others first and who constantly want to make a difference for those around them are people who inspire me every day,” Pooler says.
A 15-day Nicaraguan service course during Pooler’s freshman year brought the learning from his childhood mentors to the surface. The mathematics major helped local construction workers build a teacher’s room at a school in a poverty-stricken community. “I had been involved with volunteering in Middleborough in a Little League Challenger Division, working with baseball players with special needs for years,” Pooler explains. “But my work in Nicaragua was a greater challenge. That initial trip in January 2017 was my first real experience with activism and service learning on a global scale.”
Pooler returned to the same Nicaraguan community the following January as a student leader who oversaw the work site on which his group built a community center. He also ventured to Panajachel, Guatemala, in March 2018 and January 2019, arranging the second of the two trips himself through a nonprofit called Worthy Village, which distributes water filtration systems to families in need in the communities surrounding Lake Atitlan.
What started as a Westfield State course has turned into a way of life for Pooler, who, along with his girlfriend, Sarah, has sought to increase involvement in the service-learning trips. He ran a Boston Marathon under the name “Pooler Fights Poverty,” raising money to buy hundreds of school supplies, water filters, and building materials. His fundraising also allowed him to sponsor a Guatemalan family for over a year.
“I was inspired to run the marathon by the people I helped on my trips,” Pooler says. “I know how hard they work each day to make ends meet, and if I could simply run for a few hours to help them for years to come, then it was more than worth it.”
After he graduates next May, Pooler hopes to work as a high school math teacher and a coach. He said he’ll continue to take mission trips. “My service trips have been beyond rewarding and are some of the best times of my life,” he says. “Connecting with people all over the world and lending a helping hand is amazing. I constantly return home from trips already in the process of planning the next one.”
Pooler credits Westfield State with giving him the opportunity to explore volunteerism and with sparking his passion to create service opportunities of his own. “The best thing a college can do for people is to set them up for success, not only during their years at the University, but beyond those years,” he says. “That is exactly what Westfield State has done for me.”
To learn about the various service program options, contact Cynthia Siegler at firstname.lastname@example.org.