A delegation of Pensacola State College students and faculty will spend the next couple of weeks touring and learning about Costa Rica – in the Central America country.
Six Robinson Honors Program Scholars along with 14 other Pensacola State students and three faculty members left today for the 10-day service learning trip (July 3-12).
During the trip, the group will learn about sustainable farming practices, assist with sea turtle conservation efforts, participate in the Cahuita E-Bird Project, socialize and dine with the Bri Bri indigenous tribe and so much more, said Amber Carey, Pensacola State’s Robinson Honors Program coordinator.
“This will be our first trip since the re-establishment of the Robinson Honors Program and we wanted to do something very unique with hands-on learning,” she said.
“Along with being immersed into a totally different culture, these students will take home skills they can utilize in their daily lives and future careers. Much of the service learning will be things they can include on university applications that will show they have worked in the field.”
James Harris Jr., Wren Godwin, Joyanna Jordan, Ariana Moody, Angelina Simmons and Jennifer Ojeda are the Robinson Honors Program Scholars taking the trip. Several members of the college’s Biology Club also are tagging along, and Pensacola State instructors Melina Smyres and Robyn Ludlum.
“We even have a mother-and-son and husband-and-wife joining us,” said Carey who added the students are very excited about the journey.
“Many are our students have never been out of the country, some not even out of this area. When you visit a different place, you can come back a changed person. It opens you up to new ideas, different ways of doing things, and you realize the people you’re visiting are very similar to you.”
Some of the service learning activities include visits to:
- Territorio de Zaguates (Land of the Strays), a no-kill dog sanctuary situated on 378 acres where nearly 1,000 canines “stroll, frolic and race alongside human visitors, shelter employees and volunteers.” The animals are neutered and spayed and available for adoption.
- An eco-village to learn about permaculture and sustainable farming.
- A sloth sanctuary and jaguar sanctuary.
Also, the students will help clean a park and plant trees, discuss climate change and world hunger with Costa Ricans and learn how the issues affect the country. At an elementary school, the Pensacola State students will learn about plant pollination, composting and other aspects of gardening during a visit to the Young Farmers Program.
Fun activities also are included in the excursion.
“We’ll hike and zip line through a rainforest, observe an active volcano, visit thermal springs and a waterfall and even go coral reef snorkeling,” Carey said. “An organic chocolate-making party and bonfire are even on the itinerary as well as a walking tour of San Jose and visits to museums and craft markets.”
The Robinson Honors Scholars are looking forward to the trip. (Joyanna) Jordan is “super-excited” about her first international trip.
“This is really a blessing and something I’ve always wanted to do. When you visit another country, you experience a different culture than what we have in the United States,” said the 22-year-old business major. “You see how other people live and think, and see firsthand what their influences are … You have a clearer understanding of who they are.”
She added the trip will push her out of her comfort zone because she plans to enjoy zip lining.
“I have a fear of heights but it’s something I want to face and overcome,” Jordan said, noting she also looks forward to getting closer to nature.
“We’ll visit a volcano and navigate some different rivers. … I’m very excited to see the beauty of God’s creations and see how everything works in perfect harmony.”
(Jennifer) Ojeda, who is working on a bachelor’s degree in human resources management, expects to improve her communication skills.
“I think it’s really important to be able to respect different cultures and learn about people who are different from you ─ especially working in human resources,” said Ojeda who plans to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree in recreation tourism and events at Florida State University.
“I’m learning how to become a better communicator and sometimes that means not just observing, but actually interacting with people of other cultures. I’m really look forward to meeting members of the Bri Bri tribe and learning from them.”
Both students said the Robinson Honors Program has enriched their lives.
“This outweighs my wildest imagination and expectations about returning to college,” said Ojeda, who is 45 and working toward a second career.
Jordan said she is grateful to have been selected for the program and has grown into a better student and better person.
The program – designed to meet the needs of academically-gifted students – offers a unique learning experience in a “college within a college” setting intended to cultivate critical thinking, encourage civic and community engagement and develop a synthesis of knowledge across discipline. The program is made possible by a generous endowment from Grover Robinson IV.
Carey said members of the program will typically go on one major excursion each year, but also take shorter local and regional trips.
“The destinations will vary but we will always include service learning opportunities for the scholars to expand their view of the world and increase their exposure to diverse perspectives,” she added.