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‘Culture shock’ aftereffect: Trip puts Tinley Park teen on a mission

Stellar student profile Nicole Pavlick who wants be nurse as seen Tinley Park High School Tinley Park Illinois Wednesday February

Stellar student profile of Nicole Pavlick, who wants to be a nurse, as seen at Tinley Park High School in Tinley Park, Illinois, Wednesday, February 6, 2013. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 16, 2013 6:01AM



Nicole Pavlick is only one-fourth Greek, but most of what she does outside of school is with the Greek community. She’s also adept at speaking Spanish, having studied it for years.

In short, she enjoys learning about different cultures. So when Pavlick heard about a mission trip to Mexico last summer, sponsored by Project Mexico, the 17-year-old Tinley Park girl was interested and jumped at the chance.

The trip was designed to help build homes for the needy. The group stayed in an orphanage in a small town outside of Tijuana for a week. A typical day began at 7:30 a.m. with Pavlick and the others helping out at the orphanage before driving to the construction site, where they worked from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We came home, washed up and had a few hours to interact with the children at the orphanage,” Pavlick said. “They spoke only Spanish, and a few older ones spoke English, so I got to put my four years of Spanish to work throughout the trip.”

It proved to be a life-altering experience for Pavlick, a senior at Tinley Park High School.

“I really got to understand people who are struggling, and it was kind of a culture shock,” she said, pointing out the contrast between upscale San Diego, where the group’s flight landed, and the orphanage, which she said was “dirt poor” although only a relatively short drive away.

“It was a very eyeopening and humble experience,” she said. “I’m used to having an iPhone and always having a car available. In Mexico, we stayed in little shacks.”

The family for whom they were building the home consisted of a single mother — who worked three jobs — and two kids.

“Every day, she’d use her own money to make us homemade meals,” said Pavlick, who was especially touched by the woman’s generosity.

“She was planning a birthday party for her 10-year-old daughter after we left,” Pavlick said. “She was going to have her family over and was saving for the party. Instead, she used the money to have a big meal for the Project Mexico staff. What 10-year-old gives up her birthday party to give a meal to strangers? They were all so appreciative to us for building them a small home.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think of them. They will always have a place in my heart.”

The experience solidified Pavlick’s career choice. Next fall, she will study nursing at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

“The mission trip over the summer really helped me know what I want to do, and I love helping people,” she said. “Then and there I had it set in stone that I wanted to go into pediatric nursing because I love kids.”

Pavlick said her parents, Dorothy and Thomas Pavlick, of Tinley Park, support her in all she does.

“They are very strong. They both work full time and take care of my twin sister, Christa, and me,” Pavlick said. “They encourage us to take a part in our church and community while still helping us with our path in life and tell us to pursue our career goals and education.”

At school, Pavlick is a member of National Honor Society and cross country and is a freshman mentor.

After school, as a member of the Greek Orthodox Youth of America through her church, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Oak Lawn, Pavlick enjoys celebrating her cultural heritage and does so as a member of a church-sponsored Greek dance troupe.

“I like to celebrate my culture because of my great aunts and uncles who are very fluent in Greek and pro-active in the Greek community,” she said.

She also works part time as a waitress at Smith Crossing, a retirement home in Orland Park.

“A lot of the residents lived through World War II and the Depression and I see how much they accomplished despite those adversities,” she said. “They are always telling me that I’ll go far in life, and that brings a smile to my face.”



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