BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — The principal of Mandan’s Red Trail Elementary will soon be leaving the United States for a trip to Guatemala – where he’ll be making a difference in the education of students in an entirely different way.

Dave Steckler, Red Trail’s principal, is also the President of the National Association of Elementary School Principals and boasts 32 years in education and service, including time spent on local, state and national committees and boards. This month, he’ll be partnering with Lifetouch (an Eden Prairie, MN-based photography group) to celebrate over 20 years of Memory Missions.

Dave Steckler (Image Credit: Lifetouch Memory Missions)

Since 2000, Lifetouch’s memory missions have enabled company employees and those involved in education nationwide to travel abroad and provide services to those in need. In the past, the group has gathered volunteers to establish children’s centers in Jamaica, rebuild villages in Kosovo, and build schools across Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In total, over 500 volunteers have devoted over 100,000 hours to these Memory Mission projects.

“I look forward to serving the Guatemalan community and learning about their culture and
education,” stated Steckler in a press release. The Lifetouch Memory Mission aligns with my desire to give back to those in need.”

2023’s mission trip has gathered nearly 40 educators, executives, and employees from across the country to travel to Guatemala, where they’ll help create a school building out of an unusual material — plastic bottles.

Hug It Forward, a Guatemala-based group that builds educational infrastructures using materials like plastic bottles stuffed with trash or eco-bricks will be working with Memory Missions to construct this ‘bottle classroom’. As odd as they sound, these buildings are expected to last 100 years and are built using the same typical post-and-beam construction as many typical buildings — but the walls are filled with these economic options rather than cinderblocks.

In addition to helping to construct this schoolhouse, volunteers with Memory Missions will help to put on a Personal Portrait Day for Students and take pictures of the community’s 5-6th grade school children. This is the first series of photos ever taken in the community, and these images will be delivered in person on the last day of the mission trip.

“For more than two decades,” states LifeTouch Community Relations Manager Jan Haeg in a press release, “Lifetouch has sent crews of educators and employees to remote areas of the world to build stronger, more resilient communities. This effort is especially exciting because with the help of Hug It Forward and members of the community we will be working side-by-side to build an eco-friendly structure that will house students for decades to come and we are doing it with a network of educators and employees who really care about giving back.”

The mission trip to Guatemala will take place from January 18 to January 25. For more information about the Memory Missions and the volunteers who take part in them, and to view a gallery of photographs from previous events, visit this page,