Former SHS athlete GIVEs back in Nicaragua

SHS grad Hayley Arduini, above, went to Nicaragua after college graduation, where she worked on a housing development project.

By KEVIN ROBERTS

STAFF WRITER

Former Southington softball standout Hayley Arduini loves to win. She also loves teaching, and she was able to satisfy both during and after her senior year at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass.

First, the winning: Arduini was part of three straight Class LL state championships while playing for head coach Davina Hernandez and the Lady Knights. She was a three-year starter and earned All-CCC honors as a senior. Arduini hit .350 for her career with a .404 on-base percentage, 71 hits, 67 runs scored and 49 RBI.

Fast forward to 2019, and it was Arduini’s senior season at Endicott College. All she did for the Gulls was help them capture the 2019 Commonwealth Coast Conference Tournament championship. Arduini hit .429 (6-for-14) in the tournament with a 1.214 slugging percentage. In the championship round, Arduini homered three times in two games against the University of New England. Arduini hit seven home runs in her whole varsity career at Southington. She had a hit in all but one of the five tournament games, scored four runs and drove in another seven. Arduini was named CCC Player of the Week for her efforts.

Arduini and Endicott played in the Division III NCAA Tournament and finished with a 1-2 record. In the second of those NCAA games, Arduini homered in the bottom of the second inning to put Endicott ahead in a game it won 3-2 over the College of Staten Island.

Arduini, who studied liberal studies/education, graduated from Endicott, then went far away from a softball diamond for what turned out to be an incredible experience. She traveled to Jiquilillo, Nicaragua, on a 10-day service trip (June 10-20) with Growth International Volunteer Excursions, or GIVE. The organization offers once-in-a-lifetime volunteer opportunities abroad, according to its website.

“When I first came across the GIVE program, I knew right away that this was something I wanted to do for a while,” Arduini told ecgulls.com. “I had always said that I wanted to use my love for teaching to change lives and help others that needed it the most. GIVE gave me that opportunity along with many other life-changing experiences.

Arduini added: “I knew that going on a trip like this was going to change my whole perspective on life, but I had no idea how strong that change was going to be.”

Arduini worked on a housing development project that improved the lives of families who were in danger of losing homes or had already lost them because of rising sea levels. There was a language barrier, but the citizens of Jiquilillo were friendly, and they work hard. Dona Socorro, a middle-aged mother of two, helped the GIVE group work on the project.

“She was so thankful for our help and every day we felt that gratitude,” Arduini said. “The mornings in the heat, dripping in sweat and covered in dirt, never phased any of us because what we were doing was going to bring ease to a family that deserves the world.”

Arduini and her fellow volunteers helped teach English at a school, and that turned out to be one of her “most rewarding experiences I have ever had working with students.” The language barrier was tough, but the students’ desire to improve their English made that barrier crumble.

“It was truly an incredible experience getting to work with these children and it ultimately furthered my desire to want to be an educator one day,” Arduini said. “Many would say that I was changing these students’ lives, but they were the ones changing mine.”

It wasn’t all work for Arduini, who also got to surf and hike up Cerro Negro, Central America’s most active volcano.

“The hike took about an hour but once we got to the top we got to take in all the amazing views,” Arduini said.

How did the group get down from the top of the volcano? By sledding, of course.

“We suited up and sled down to the bottom,” Arduini said. “Truly an experience I will never forget. We spent the rest of the day in the city of Leon learning the history of Nicaragua, visiting cathedrals and shopping.”

The biggest thing Arduini took from her trip was that a little goes a long way.

“From the staff, to the locals, and to the other volunteers on the trip with me, I have made connections and relationships that I know will last a lifetime,” Arduini said.

Arduini added: “It is important to realize that we can all make a difference and it is important to realize that. Use your privilege, your ability, your strength, and your youth, to make a difference.”

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com

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