ROCHESTER — With a black brace hugging his knee cap and a look of sheer concentration on his face, Dante Varrasso crouched low in an athlete’s stance and waited for the rubber balls to bounce his way.
He dodged and weaved when they did, eluding them for yet another time as his students tried in vain to hit him.
“It’s a dodgeball inferno,” an announcer observed, making a pun on the social-studies teacher’s name.
Varrasso, the lone member of his team still in the dodgeball game, faced down a host of hostile seniors, snatching a ball out of midair to bring his team back from the brink of sudden death.
“If this isn’t exciting, you don’t know the definition,” another announcer said.
Even though the Dec. 21 “Dodgeball for the Dominican” tournament between faculty and seniors at McQuaid Jesuit High School was high drama, it was all for a good cause.
The tournament raised money so that six juniors and six seniors can travel to the Dominican Republic Feb. 17-24 to build latrines for a rural village. Tournament proceeds helped offset the $18,000 cost of the trip.
The Institute for Latin American Concern, a mission run by Creighton University, is coordinating the trip. Students will receive a day of education and orientation at the institute’s center in Santiago before leaving for the rural village in which they’ll work. Students also will live in the village so they can be immersed in its culture.
Although students have gone on domestic-service trips through the school, officials said this is the farthest they have ever traveled. In prior years groups of sophomores have traveled to Camden, N.J., Toronto, Canada, and Detroit, Mich.
Chris Hood, the school’s service-learning director, said although the Dominican Republic is known for its sunny Caribbean resorts, poverty is rampant off resort property. Workers make an average of $500 per year, Hood said.
“As much as the Dominican Republic has resorts, there are definitely places that need help,” he said.
The students, who will be guided by a contractor, will be building latrines out of two-by-fours and corrugated sheet metal to protect the area’s water supply from contamination.
“What they are doing is very rudimentary, but very necessary,” Hood said.
The trip’s goal, he said, is to make students see the world as a little bit of a smaller place.
“We hope they recognize a sense of community, that they are part of the global community, where poverty takes on a different level,” he said.
The idea for the fundraising dodgeball tournament evolved in part because of the recent Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller dodgeball flick, and the idea that seniors at the all-boys school might want to blow off some steam before exams.
Students gave the fun fundraiser high marks.
“In my four years, this is probably one of the better things they have had,” said Marquis Moore of Rochester, who is in the class of 2009.
Several attendees said they were surprised by faculty member Laurie Farber, who showed off her karate skills in a breaking demonstration. Farber is world ranked as a black belt in karate, and on Oct. 28 finished first in breaking, third in empty-hand kata and fourth in weapons kata during the American International Karate Championships at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center.
Throughout the tournament, the faculty held their own against the seniors, students said.
“They’re better than I thought they would have been,” said senior Connor Quinn of Rochester, who played on the Executive Council/Senior Officer’s Team.