This is the second of 20 profiles of The Gazette's Best and Brightest Class of 2017.
Atop 9,000-foot Machu Picchu mountain, Colin Welge looked down at the Inca ruins far below. "We were surrounded by the Andes, 20,000-foot peaks. "There aren't words to describe it. I was reminded there must be something bigger than us out there."
But another profound experience awaited the Pine Creek High School senior on that educational and service trip to Peru last year.
He had done a lot of community service in Colorado tutoring children in French, mentoring sixth-graders in an environmental awareness program, and working with disabled youth in a soccer program.
But the Peru experience changed his attitude toward giving. He knew very little Spanish, so communication came through interactions. The children taught his group Peruvian songs, dances and how to play a flute. In turn he and the others helped with various project, including cleaning the school for a celebration. "I saw that giving isn't just pushing resources and money on people."
Service can be as simple as what he himself received from his Peruvian host family. "They prepared all our meals and afterwards washed the dishes for 20 in their very tiny kitchen sink. Their smiles were bigger than the portion sizes they fed us. They wouldn't let us help. They were making time to serve us. I saw that service is making someone's day better."
The experiences have given direction to his education goals. He plans to attend Azusa Pacific College in Los Angeles to major in biochemistry, and eventually get a medical degree in neuroscience, to become a developmental pediatrician.
He is excited about a second major in humanities that he will take along with the biochemistry. It is something he would not have thought about before Peru. The studies focus on great works in philosophy, theology, music, art and literature to better understand the human experience.
In his medical career, he wants to treat children and families with developmental and behavioral problems.
"I want to help people be the best version of themselves. " Welge says.