Vernon Hills students travel to Uganda


Vernon Hills students and staff pose with COVE students.

This July, Vernon Hills students and staff members traveled 12,500 miles to visit our sister school in Uganda. A 14-hour plane ride to Dubai, followed by a six-hour flight to Kampala, Uganda, followed by a four-hour drive to Kapeeka, was all it took for them to get from O’Hare International Airport to St. Jerome Children’s Outreach and Vocational Education, or COVE.

Katelyn Dohler (11) remembers how quiet it was on the students’ first night.

“The kids were already in bed when we got there…Although the kids were in their dormitories, a lot of them were up and were peeking out of their windows,” Dohler said.

Despite the initial jet lag, the students managed to accomplish a lot in their time abroad. Cassie Pappano (11) described all that her and her classmates did in their time at the COVE.

“We were able to paint three classrooms… We also set up our field day, which was fun. [The students] all played games and we gave them medals. When we weren’t with the kids, we visited families [of COVE Students],” Pappano said.

This was the fourth trip for Vernon Hills High School students to the COVE, but VHHS was connected to the organization for several years before students began visiting.

Vernon Hills High School Principal Dr. Jon Guillaume explained that the COVE Alliance reached out to former Principal Dr. Ellen Cwick about becoming involved with their new school in Uganda. Dr. Cwick visited the COVE in 2007, and Vernon Hills High School began supporting the organization soon after.

The COVE Alliance was founded in 2003 by Hilary Muheezangango, a Ugandan man studying to be a Catholic Priest at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Mundelein. He eventually went back to Uganda, and upon seeing the number of impoverished children in his diocese, he started the COVE Alliance, a non-profit organization created to help youth in the area. VHHS intends to continue to support this goal.

“As needs arise at the COVE, whether it’s building projects or development projects… we will get behind them in any way possible. We will also continue to support the children through sponsorships,” Dr. Guillaume said.

Vernon Hills High School, area companies such as Rust-Oleum, and Vernon Hills citizens continue to support the children of the COVE as much as they can, and in two years, more Vernon Hills students will travel 12,500 miles to give the COVE as much hands on help as it needs.