Redmond Proficiency Academy (RPA) High School students and teachers Julie O’Neill, Chris Eberle, and Troy Longstroth, recently visited Costa Rica as part of an effort to teach English, serve the Costa Rican people in various ways, and of course, take in the sights and explore the region.
Students and staff were able to visit Costa Rica during the middle of the school year because of RPA’s January Term (Jan Term) course. Running from Jan. 6 to Jan. 23, 2020, Jan Term was created to allow students to explore a subject they would not otherwise take during a regular grading period, and other students to gain more in-depth experience in a subject with which they are already familiar.
“The RPA Costa Rica trip was like nothing I have ever experienced,” sophomore Josie Gibson said. “I learned about another country while getting to make new friends and make memories that could never be recreated.”
The 10-day trip was divided up by service days and tourism days. During the service days, the students taught English and played with kids at two different schools, built seedling boxes for a local family, helped clean an animal sanctuary housing macaw birds, jaguars, Tapirs, and other jungle animals, worked at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, counting animal tracks for their tracking surveys and served at a retirement home by playing games with seniors and cleaning the facility.
“I was deeply impacted as I had a front-row seat to kids’ lives being changed,” Spanish teacher Julie O’Neill said. “They were so engaged and game to try anything. The team created deep bonds with each other and made huge efforts to connect with Costa Ricans.”
The tourism days consisted of a coffee plantation tour, a day at the Manuel Antonio National Park – complete with a swim in the warm Pacific Ocean, zip-lining through the jungle, and a hike of Volcano Arenal.
“Overall Costa Rica was such an incredible experience, sophomore Hailey Vincent said. “I got to learn more about a culture I knew nothing about. I also got to learn more about my friends and peers, and more about myself. I truly hope to bring the pura vida lifestyle into my everyday life and just be able to live more in the moment.”
Pura vida means “simple life” or “pure life” and is a way of life among Costa Ricans, having to do with living a simpler, less stressful life, and not dwelling on the negative. Several RPA students reflected on the philosophy and the desire to incorporate elements of pura vida into their own lives.
“We packed an amazing amount of fun and work into the 10-day trip,” O’Neill said. “Being able to explore a beautiful foreign country, serve others, and return with a new outlook on life is a pretty great start to a new year for our students.”