In July, I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak in San Antonio, Texas at the Community Colleges for International Development (CCID) Annual Forum on behalf of CREAR. We connected with the forum, which chose a focus on development and educational exchange in Latin America and the Caribbean, through our partnership with Delta College in Michigan where Professor Christine Yaroch (a true friend to CREAR!), promotes CREAR as an international volunteer opportunity to her Spanish students.
I was scheduled to speak on the 2nd day of the forum along with others who work in various aspects of Costa Rica’s educational system. I was so grateful to share the stage with these other panelists, who each understand the educational framework that is CREAR’s foundation inside and out. My fellow panelists and education enthusiasts were Andrés Morera, International Relations Director of the Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, Gabriela Lücke, International Trade Specialist at the US Embassy, Dan Creed, Global Studies Coordinator & Professor at Normandale Community College Coordinator, and of course Professor Yaroch.
While my presentation was geared toward giving the non-profit perspective of these international development partners, such as the global leadership and professional experience that can be gained in a volunteer internship with CREAR, other panelists rounded out the picture of how student exchange across agencies, institutions, and organizations like ours all contribute to the bigger picture of international development.
Mr. Morera spoke from the perspective of an educator at a major university in Costa Rica. Ms. Lücke offered a unique position as someone who works to financially support education in Costa Rica. Ms. Yaroch is a professor who brings her students to our facility to participate in service learning trips, participating on the nonprofit side of education in Costa Rica. Mr. Creed spoke in review of a successful language immersion program throughout schools in Minnesota. Hearing each of these wonderfully passionate individuals share their expertise, I was quite struck by the fact that we are all working toward the same goal from different sides, not just programmatically but culturally— it really made me feel we have a recipe for true success on an international scale by partnering with colleges and universities like Delta College, El Camino College, Landmark College, Austin College, Duke, Princeton University, Florida State University, Vanderbilt; and by engaging with allies like the US Embassy. In fact, I’ll be stopping by there the next time I’m in San Jose to visit with Ms. Lucke!
Since the focus of the forum was on how US-based community colleges can participate in development in Latin America, I had the opportunity to reflect on just how our model works on the volunteer side. Does CREAR truly aid in creating a more globally conscious generation of students? Because that is certainly my hope. So I thought about it naturally through the lens of an Executive Director and how our volunteers really plug into our mission during their time with us.
Taking a step back, CREAR’s primary program is now and has been since its founding to provide afterschool programs to supplement the formal class time of the youth of our community, in addition to providing English classes for all ages to increase the employability of our local community members. So that provides ample opportunity for our incoming servant leaders with a focus on education to have classroom instruction experience.
Yet, as we’ve grown the variety classes and programs we offer, so too have grown the opportunities for enrichment on the part of our volunteers. Expanding our mission involves operational needs, which calls for the skills of analytical and organized interns. Gaining support for our work involves marketing needs, which fosters creativity and communication skills from interns who have that inclination.
Having been with CREAR for going on eight years, I can attest that now more than ever, having qualified interns and volunteers has been instrumental in our growth. I don’t always have occasion to fully express the significance of these relationships in the big picture. The CCID forum really did provide the chance to highlight the importance of having global work experience in the current global economy, and what CREAR’s part is in that process. I found it to be a very enriching forum. I had the opportunity to gain knowledge from all the other presenters, even though we all work in virtually the same field.
I’ll admit that I had a few pre-panel jitters at first, but it was a wonderful opportunity. Who would have thought that I would create strong in-country connections with Costa Ricans like Ms. Lucke and Mr. Morera in my own home state of Texas! Our work is truly global.
Overall, I found the forum to be incredibly worthwhile and I am abundantly grateful to those at CCID who invited me to come speak. Unfortunately, during my presentation, we had some technical difficulties with the video that highlights our internship program.
I’d like to apologize for the problem and offer the video here: https://youtu.be/8irLQU_o3rw
Here is the link as well to a video of my presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09iqb-DMCjs
If you would like to learn more about CREAR and get involved in our volunteer internship program, visit asociacionCREAR.org
If you would like to donate to our mission of education, visit http://www.asociacioncrear.org/content/make-donation