TJC plans to take a group of 15 students to reach out to the people of Costa Rica in May 2009. They will travel to a village in Costa Rica called Los Lilas, and the students will be completing a service project for a school there.
Michael Metke, the president of TJC, was in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica from 1966 to 1968. While Metke lived there, he helped build the Escuela Los Lilas in 1967, which is the same school where the students do their service project.
“The school we established is still in a poor area, and it needs some attention,” he said.
During the trip, the team will be doing some minor repairs on the school, but the main project is to turn a closet in the school into a library.
“One of the needs they have, is they don’t have a place to store books and materials,” Metke said.
The students will be catering to this need by reconditioning the space designated to be the library, by painting and putting up shelves.
“I think the little project that we do there will certainly help, but I think that the students involved will get a lot more,” Metke said.
John Hays, the department chair of Foreign Languages, is also a key leader in the trip and agrees that the students will gain much more than they will give.
“It will be a project of great exchange. We will give a little and take back so much more,” Hays said. “We go away, come back and appreciate a little more of what we have.”
Nicholas Meyers is a current student at TJC who plans to travel to Costa Rica. He is very excited to travel and see the country’s biodiversity, but he is also happy to do the service project.
“After we leave, what we have done will still be there,” Meyers said.
The service project fulfills one of TJC’s three promises: community service. Hays talked about the trip as a way, not only to reach out to the local community, but the global community as well.
The team will be taking items such as books, school supplies and children’s clothes to give to Los Lilas.
The organizers of the trip feel that the service project is perfect for students.
“What better fit than a library, because typically the library is the center of learning in a college,” Metke said.
UT-Tyler, along with TJC, will also be contributing to the town of Los Lilas by donating uniforms for the local soccer team.
Rodney Mabry, the President of UT-Tyler, will be joining the group traveling to Costa Rica, and is visiting the country ahead of time with Metke to prepare for the trip.
This will be the first time for TJC students to travel to Costa Rica. According to Metke, TJC is hoping to make this trip an annual excursion so that students can experience other cultures.
Students attending the trip will also get to experience the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest, and see the Arenal Volcano National Park. They will also get to visit a beach on the coast of Costa Rica and possibly scuba dive.
According to Hays, the trip does not include college credit, but organizers hope to create a hub for education in Costa Rica for possible credit opportunity in the future.