By TAMMY JACKSON
EBCI EXTENSION OFFICE
Ten high school students and five chaperones from Cherokee and western North Carolina boarded a plane in Atlanta, Ga. on June 10. Their destination: the beautiful Republic of Costa Rica. For most of the group, traveling to a foreign country would be a truly “foreign” experience.
These students were part of the 2013 Costa Rica Eco-Study Tour which is a hands-on living classroom. Through the various events the students participated in, their eyes were opened to the many facets of sustainability, integrated animal production, and peri-urban farming. These were terms that most of the students had not even heard before or knew what they meant.
Students observed how the Costa Rican people are developing a system that recycles and reuses items that we often do not think twice about throwing away. They are learning how to take the resources they have available and make them work for their world. Their goal is to be the first nation in the world to eliminate a carbon footprint.
For twelve days, the students hiked, swam, rode horses, rafted and sweated; all the while observing the beautiful scenery of the coasts of the Pacific and Caribbean oceans, and the majestic view of Mount Arenal volcano. They saw sloths, monkeys, birds, crocodiles, snakes, spiders and butterflies. The beauty of creation was before their eyes every day and without their cell phones, Ipads or Ipods, they took the time to experience it.
The result was that each student walked away from this Eco-Study Tour with a desire to make his or her world a little better. As the students met the Costa Rican indigenous people, they came to appreciate their contentment with the resources afforded them and their desire to help their own people through future partnerships with groups such as this.
“We are all grateful to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Cherokee Presevation Foundation for supporting this experience,” said Tammy Jackson, EBCI Extension Office and one of the trip’s chaperones. “We are also thankful for the EBCI Extension Office for staffing the tour and providing the support and facility to plan and prepare for the event. We also thank the parents, grandparents and the Cherokee community for their encouragement and support.”
Participants in this year’s tour including the following students and chaperones: students – Andrew Johnson, Jacob Long, Kyle Chapa, Conner Luckey-Smith, Keanu Crowe, Cree Rockwood, Jacquelyn Bruun, Shelby Lossiah, Katie Jacobs, Savannah Black; chaperones – Alicia Jacobs, David Cozzo, Janet Smith, Alex Mascerrilli and Tammy Jackson.
There is so much more that could be shared that cannot be written in this news article. One of the final requirements for each tour participant is that they schedule and do a presentation of the trip to their local community club, school, church or any other organization that is interested in hearing about their experience. If you would like one of the students to share his or her experience with your group or organization, contact one of the students directly or the EBCI Extension Office. For information on the 2014 Eco-Study Tour, contact EBCI Extension Office 554-6934.