Like many high school graduates, Jacalyn Barrella, of Absecon, and Molly Gibbons, of Margate, are planning to go to college.

Just not quite yet.

Instead in September the Holy Spirit High School graduates will leave for Uganda for an almost three-month stay working at an orphanage through International Volunteer HQ, a New Zealand-based company that places volunteers in supervised settings in countries around the world including Kenya, South Africa, India, Vietnam, Guatemala, Thailand, China, Brazil, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Bali and Mexico

Gibbons said the idea evolved during their senior year. She and Barrella became close friends and talked about wanting to help others and see the world.

"I'd go online to look at colleges, and then instead I'd be looking at volunteer programs," Gibbons said. She got accepted to Montclair State University, but opted to put off college until she returns.

Both girls said they were a bit nervous telling their parents what they wanted to do, but have their support.

"My mom thought it was crazy, but once she realized I was really serious she warmed up to it," Barrella said. Gibbons said her mom knew she wanted to do something like the trip so she wasn't surprised.

"She is glad I am going with someone I know," she said.

The two said the courses they took at Holy Spirit inspired them to want to help others, and to see more of the world.

"This year we had world religions and learned about different cultures," Gibbon said. "The school is great at bringing people in to tell us about other cultures and viewpoints. And they always talk about the importance of service."

It was a visit by representatives of Invisible Children, which focuses on addressing atrocities in Uganda, that made them want to go there. They will be based near Kampala.

They will leave Sept. 1 and return at the end of November. This summer they will try to learn some Swahili, and work to raise money for the trip, which will cost about $1,300 plus airfare. They will have an orientation for the trip, and are also hoping to talk to area local residents with ties to Uganda who can tell them about the country before they leave.

"I'm just so excited," Barrella said.

"Its finally starting to seem so real that we are really going," Gibbons said.

Contact Diane D'Amico:

609-272-7241