When classes end in May another set of Auburn University graduates will begin to write the next chapter of their lives. For Leigh Cooper, a senior in elementary education, this next chapter will be written from Honduras and she will be writing it in Spanish.
On June 3, Leigh will put her life in the United States on an indefinite hiatus and begin a new story in Honduras, living, teaching and serving at Orphanage Emmanuel. Leigh describes her decision to teach in Honduras as a calling from God.
“In May 2009 I felt the Lord laying Honduras on my heart,” Leigh said. “At first I didn’t understand why, I had been to Orphanage Emmanuel once, but I didn’t know Spanish, and I didn’t know anything about the country.”
As God continued to confirm the calling Leigh began taking steps to relocate to Honduras. She enrolled in several Spanish courses at Auburn and raised money for the trip by working at Bizilia’s Café and selling her Auburn football season tickets. Leigh admits that the process has been tough, but her sacrifice is evidence that she is compelled by something greater than herself.
Although Leigh will be going as a certified teacher, her responsibilities at the orphanage will not be limited to her area of expertise.
“While living at the orphanage I’ll be teaching English in the school, working in the medical clinic, caring for toddlers, leading bible studies, working on the farm and helping with landscaping duties.”
Orphanage Emanuel, which was founded by David and Lydia Martinez in 1989, is located in the rural area of Guaimaca, Honduras. Today the orphanage is home to nearly 400 children and provides the children with food, clothes, love and shelter. In addition the orphanage supports a pre-K through 12th grade school system and a farm complex.
Leigh isn’t the first Auburn graduate to follow God’s calling to serve at Orphanage Emmanuel. Wade McCollum, an agriculture major, is the director of the orphanage’s farm, and Robert Burrows, a molecular biology major, is the principal of the elementary school.
During her final semester, Leigh is serving as an intern for the sixth grade at Opelika Middle School. This internship is the capstone requirement for elementary education majors at Auburn University and serves as Leigh’s final preparation for teaching in Honduras.
For Auburn’s many graduates, May 14’s graduation ceremony is the light at the end of the tunnel. However, Leigh’s eyes are fixed on a different light. She lives convinced that her story is better written under the guidance of God, and on June 3 they begin a new chapter together.