President’s Leadership Circle Goes on Service Trip to Uganda

Frostburg State University’s President’s Leadership Circle returned from a service trip to Uganda last week. The group of six seniors were in Uganda for two weeks. Six others visited Uganda earlier in the semester.

PLC is a leadership and service group that is focused on the development of students. Senior Katie McCartney, who attended the trip, said that since she was a sophomore it has been her goal to get into the President’s Leadership Circle.

“Every decision I made academically was focused on getting in to PLC,” said McCartney. “Helping people is a drive for me.”

From left to right: Doug Baer, Elle Wilson, Jocelyn Williams, Katie McCartney, Gabrielle Cousino, Sarah Deprey-Severance, and India Lacey. (Photo credit: India Lacey)
From left to right: Doug Baer, Elle Wilson, Jocelyn Williams, Katie McCartney, Gabrielle Cousino, Sarah Deprey-Severance, and India Lacey. (Photo credit: India Lacey)

McCartney described the trip as “life-changing.” Her sentiments were echoed by Doug Baer, Director of Experiential Learning and Leadership, who coordinated the trip for PLC.

“Students come back from this trip absolutely changed,” said Baer.  “Uganda changes who they are, to their core, for their entire lives.”

The trip began the week of spring break. The seniors of PLC went to a small village in northern Uganda, the same one that PLC went to last spring. Baer said this makes an impact on how the village maintains the things that have been implemented for them.

“Going back to the same school, [the villagers] know they will be called out on it if they don’t have them,” says Baer.

The trip has been so frequent and impactful on the village that they have named their school Frostburg Village. Most students do not even know that this village exists, let alone that there is an elementary school named for the university.

Roughly nine hundred students attend the elementary school, which operates on a budget of just $1,000 every year. That is nearly nothing to keep the school open and functioning.

When the PLC first arrived in Uganda, they painted one building of the school, top half orange and bottom half blue. Baer says that this was very beneficial to the community as a whole.

“The school isn’t just a school.  It’s also a village center,” says Baer. “We’re giving them pride in their community and their school.”

McCartney added that the paint helps keep dust away from the classrooms. “Frostburg and the Water School in Uganda want to make sure that students are learning in a conducive learning environment,” says McCartney, “not a dark dusty concrete building.”

The Water School in Uganda is a close partner with the PLC here at Frostburg. They teach the children in Uganda how to purify water and set up clean latrines and sink-like things called tippy-taps.

Baer thinks that the Water School and the PLC do not have enough of an impact on the campus.

“We have a school in Uganda named after us, all the way in Africa, and virtually no one knows about it. How can we not support them?”

He would like to see entire University support for this project and get the rest of campus, not just PLC, involved in it.

In addition to painting the school building, PLC women took aside the older females of the school to talk to them about menstruation and women’s health.

McCartney with children in the Ugandan village (Katie McCartney)
McCartney with children in the Ugandan village (Photo Credit: Katie McCartney)

“These girls just don’t know what it means when they get their period for the first time,” said Baer.

McCartney was part of the group that talked to the girls. She taught them that just because the girls have their period now, they do not have to “drop out and start having kids and get married.”

They also taught the girls how to take care of themselves while menstruating. There are a few local methods that were taught.

Finally, McCartney and the rest of the PLC women taught the girls that menstruation is nothing to be embarrassed about. “It is a healthy, normal bodily function.”

A child named Innocence asked McCartney, “Are you guys coming back next week? I want you to come back. When they come back do you think they could bring me tennis shoes?” McCartney said he handed her an index card with his name and contact information on it.

“Keep this,” Innocence said. “Don’t forget about me.” McCartney is currently arranging to send him a pair of tennis shoes.

For more information about President’s Leadership Circle, visit A documentary about PLC’s efforts with the Water School can be found here:

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