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Hudson family travels to Haiti to help with school celebration

by Tim Troglen | reporter Published: April 27, 2014 12:00 AM
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Hudson -- Most people will travel across country for a momentous prep school or college celebration.

However, a Hudson attorney and two members of his family took school pride a step farther, travelling to another country to celebrate with a school they did not attend.

Kevin Gluntz, his wife, Kelene, and their son, Kyle, 12, recently returned from a trip to the island nation of Haiti to help with the 20th anniversary of Institution Univers, a Christian-based 2,300 student private school in Ouanaminthe, Haiti, which none of the family members attended.

The family was part of a contingent from Coalition of Children in Need Association, a 501C3 group, according to Gluntz. The March trip was the second for Kevin.

While helping with celebration preparations, Kevin hit the streets looking for recruits for potential start-up businesses and trips to American colleges.

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The school, Institution Univers, was started 19 years ago by Hughes Bastien, a native of Haiti. It started as a one-room school with 85 students and a $20,000 budget. Today there are 2,300 students on a 200-acre campus with a $750,000 operating budget. Pre-kindergarten serves more than 100 students, with 1,100 students in kindergarten through grade 13. There is even a chicken farm which focuses on agri-business training and research.

Some students go to college, while others focus on the school's vocational program which offers classes like auto mechanics, electrical engineering and sewing.

Some students are sponsored to travel to the United States for college.

"After they graduate, they are required to go back [to Haiti] to work for the same amount of time they were educated up here," Kevin said.

Kevin, who own, Gluntz Law LLC on Boston Mills Road, has been working with Haitian students to help choose majors which will allow them to take skills back to their home country, which has almost 90 percent unemployment.

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"That is an absolute challenge," Kevin said. "We had our first graduate go back last year and he is now working IT at the school."

Kevin also worked with a variety of start-up companies in Haiti, including getting American companies to invest in businesses.

"I wanted to help and use what I know to aid in Haiti's economic development," Kevin said.

During a June trip to the island nation, Kevin helped build a fence around the school to help keep students safe from potential dangers, including human traffickers.

Each trip has the common goal to build up hope in Haiti.

"The school also has a program which allows graduating students to be sponsored by an American family and attend a university in the states," Kelene said. "After their schooling in the states the students return to Haiti to work and give back. This is a great way to create change one person at time."

The Gluntz family, which also includes Gabrielle, 9, Daniel, 6 and Adam, 26, will host a Haitian student, Rilouvinnx (Bilou) Isaac, later this year. Rilouvinnx will attend Cuyahoga Community College in the fall.

Kevin called Rilouvinnx a "phenominal kid," who has helped organize neighborhood clean-ups in his section of Haiti.

"God has blessed us with an opportunity to sponsor a student," Kelene said. "If all goes well he will be coming to live with us in July."

Kyle, a Hudson Middle School student, helped his parents prepare for the school's celebration.

"We made 3,000 sandwiches, give or take, for the celebration, made decorations and ran some camps for the kids," Kyle said.

Life in Haiti

Haiti was different from Hudson in "everything," Kyle said.

"The streets were not paved and there was trash and garbage all over the streets," according to Kyle. "And there are like trenches along the side of the streets where people dumped everything."

Housing was a bit different too, Kyle added.

"Everybody lived in these tiny houses," Kyle said.

However, the people were "great," Kyle said. And the middle school student would "love to go back" again.

"Being able to have that experience at my age really impacted me and it would probably be good for other people my age to see the different between Hudson and a third world country," Kyle said.

His mom agreed.

"The people live with so much less than we do, but they are happy," Kelene said. "We met a lot of amazing people in Haiti. There are so many things we take for granted that make our lives easier. For example, mail or shipping. If you want to send something to the school for a student, it has to go down with a person travelling there."

According to Kevin, there is a "stigma" associated with being from Haiti and even their fellow islanders from the Dominican Republic side, do not want anything to do with the Haitians.

"We want to leave them with a sense of hope that things can get better," Kevin said. "If they work hard at this school, we are going to work our darnedest to get them an education and create jobs down there."

For additional information on COCINA visit www.haiticocina.org.

Hudson Monthly Editor Stephanie Fellenstein contributed to this story.

Email: ttroglen@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9435

Facebook: TimTroglenRPC

Twitter: @Trog_RPC

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