On Monday July 15th I started my first day of school at el Colegio de los Ángeles, a Costa Rican private school with grades K-12 run by the Order of Dominican Friars. The attached photo features Friar Mario Torres who is originally from Guatemala. He is one of the priests who helps run the Colegio and his behind the scenes organizational skills is one of the main reasons this trip has been possible. As you may have noticed, he is not wearing the traditional white and black Dominican habit which distinctly marks this order of priests. Here at the Colegio the friars wear lay-people clothing because they want to feel more connected to the community of San Jose. Fr. Mario feels like students, parents and faculty are more able to identify with him when he is in more casual clothing.
On this trip I am also accompanied by another Smith Fellowship recipient, the kind-hearted Katherine Martinez. Although we have different host families, we will be working closely together for the next 5 weeks at the school. The first day consisted of many happy introductions; we visited every class in the school, 33 classes in total, and also got to know a lot of the faculty.
One of the most impressionable aspects of the Costa Rican culture is how committed children, parents and grandparents are to minimizing their carbon footprint on the world. This week Katherine and I were asked to work on a project to make the school more environmentally conscious. We made signs for every classroom and other areas around the school to promote participation in more eco-friendly behaviors such as recycling and reducing waste.
On Friday we got to work directly with the kiddos which was absolutely amazing!! In addition to the previously stated efforts to help the school go more green, we are preparing recycled wood for outdoor gardens. Students from the high school and elementary school teamed up to sand wood. Others, not shown, were planting flowers in recycled bottles that the children brought to school from their houses. It’s beautiful to see how much can get done when we work together. Although there’s still so much more work to do, I can’t wait to see how much we can get done in our time together. So proud of these kids in their dedication and efforts to make the world a better and greener place!