In a service learning initiative under TSU’s study-abroad program, a group of students recently experienced an up-close look at the struggles students in Costal Rica’s poor rural areas go through to get an education.
Although elementary education in the Central American nation is compulsory, shortage of basic school supplies such as chairs, desks, chalk, blackboards, textbooks, writing materials and computers was commonplace in schools the TSU students visited.
In a small part, the TSU students’ visit was aimed to identify with the Costa Rican children’s plight, and see how they could help to curb the situation. At one school, LaTrinidad Elementary School in the Puerto Viejo Sarapiquia province, the TSU visitors interacted with the Coast Rican students, and distributed educational materials such as paper, books, pens, pencils and other items.
“We knew we could not solve all of their problems, and the gifts may have just put a small dent in their level of need, we just wanted to let them know that we care,” team coordinator Mario Johnson said.
The 10-day trip took the TSU visitors across the country where they also experienced the rural way of life in Costa Rica.
“This was a Service Learning project that provided the opportunity for students to apply theoretical classroom experiences to practical real-world experiences,” said Dr. John Cade, Associate Provost. “Co-curricular activities such as service learning, place students in real-life situations that provide the opportunity for them to gain a reservoir of knowledge, which lead to academic success, leadership development, cultural, and civic awareness.”
More than just cultural awareness, the trip was necessary, and left a profound and lasting impact on the TSU students. For Alonzo Furtick, an Art major from Charlotte, N.C., the feeling was much deeper.
“I don’t take what we did for those children and their education lightly, because they try, they work hard, and they continue to fight against odds in extreme conditions just to get an education,” he said. “I know it was a one-time shot and we may never see them again to grasp the smiles on each child’s face, but I know what we did through Tennessee State University made their world a better place.”
For Dr. Cade, the Costa Rican experience was “a very” rewarding way for the students to spend their summer vacation. “Based on comments we received from the students, the intended goal of the trip was definitely achieved. I would certainly recommend that these types of trips continue.”
“Learning about the Costa Rican culture was great; seeing how the people live, makes you appreciate all that you have,” student Tajaya Bean, a Communication major from Madison, Tenn., added.
Others assisting on the trip as chaperons and guides were: Felina Freeman, TSU Director of Events Management; Mary Patrick Carver, TSU alumnae; and Dalila Duarte, a graduate student.
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Rick DelaHaya: 615.963.5312
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