In May 10th and 11th graders took a ten day trip to Costa Rica as part of their participation in the Social Innovation Program (SIP). After an early morning at LAX, students found themselves in Alajuela, Costa Rica greeted by humid air and a dinner of plantains, rice, beans, and a variety of grilled meats. The following day, students split into small groups tasked with accomplishing scavenger hunt items, such as: buying a newspaper; learning a Costa Rican joke; sending a postcard to campus; visiting the central market. Once reconvened, students had fun recounting stories from the day and sharing fruits they had bought, like mamoncillo, cas, and carambola.
Students spent the majority of the trip paired with families in Cedral, a small coffee growing community nestled in the mountains. Over the course of our seven days in homestays, students learned about the coffee growing process, wrote a recipe with their family, sanded and painted walls of a newly created church, played pick up soccer games, and went on many gorgeous hikes. Between bouts of heavy rain everyday, students also took part in dance classes, tortilla making workshops, and even attend a quinceñera.
Community members described their structure as a growers association and producer-owned cooperative. Students related the social and economic justice work they do on campus in SIP to the ways coffee growers in Cedral share profits, make collective decisions, and distribute labor as key stakeholders in the global coffee economy. Students and teachers took turns interpreting these conversations.
On our last night in Cedral, students read out loud their letters of gratitude to their families in Spanish, exchanged social media handles, and gave heartfelt hugs. As we drove away back to the city, tears dribbled down faces as students reflected on their newly discovered definitions of “home” and “family.” A quick visit to the beach helped lift the mood.
Once back home, students read letters they had written to themselves on the plane ride to Costa Rica about hopes, fears, and expectations. Through Spiral Council, we spoke about the ways values such as self-determination, cooperation, and kindness see no borders and can continue to be enacted in students’ everyday lives.
I am proud of students for taking advantage of every chance they had to face uncertainty, practice Spanish, and challenge cultural assumptions. Thank you to our Sequoyah chaperones, LeeMichael, Marisol, Ian, Melinda, Ilan—and Osvaldo, our Costa Rican guide. ¡Pura vida!