By: Stuart Millar, Montezuma. [email protected]
Preparations are well underway at Escuela Bilingue Futuro Verde, located between Cobano and Montezuma on the Southern Nicoya Peninsula, for opening day of school on January 31st. “The school is in the best shape it has ever been in,” said Khalida Lockheed (President of the Asociacion Escuela Futuro Verde). Enrolment is currently up by more than 100%, and still growing.
The school is a not for profit project, serving Kinder-12th grade, which according to its website has a mission to, “create a bilingual educational setting…where students learn, explore, and grow with respect and attention to the environment, diversity and social aspects that exist around us.”
The school, originally named Escuela Futuro Verde, was the brainchild of two ex-pat mothers from Europe. It filled the demand for a bilingual education amongst the international community. In the early years numbers grew and the school moved to larger premises near Cobano. The association also set its sights on accreditation with the Ministerio de Educacion Publica de Costa Rica. However, by the end of 2010, the school’s fortunes had changed.
Lockheed, originally from New Jersey, USA, took over as President of the Association in December 2010. With the school facing financial turmoil, dwindling enrolment and no School Director, closing at the end of 2010 looked to be a real possibility. When asked why she didn’t give up with the situation looking so grim, Lockheed replied that without Escuela Bilingue Futuro Verde, her family’s days of living in Montezuma would be numbered. Although other local private options would address some basic educational needs, she did not feel they could provide the multi-cultural environment and enrichment that she wanted for her children. To give the school one last chance at survival she placed an advertisement on Craigslist in the USA. Elizabeth Samworth, an experienced teacher and administrator with a Masters in Education, specializing in bilingual and special education, accepted the offer to become Escuela Bilingue Futuro Verde’s Head of School. She was joined by a strong, well qualified team of teachers and volunteers, both from the local area and abroad.
Since then, momentum has increased leaving the Association President overwhelmed by the amount of local enthusiasm and support for the project. Lockheed attributes much of the increased enrolment to her husband Alex Jimenez Gutierrez, a Costa Rican national with strong family ties in the area, who has also put countless hours in to the project, spreading the word amongst the local community. “The school was beautiful,” Khalida, said, “it was just drawing from too small a population.” Not only that, “…the local children and community deserve good educational choices,” said Alex. “For the school to succeed it has to draw from the different communities in the area,” he added. Khalida believes that, “because of our family’s bicultural heritage we are able to address the educational concerns of foreigners while at the same time making local families feel welcome, explaining to them that we’re not trying to replace the Costa Rican curriculum, but add to it.” Alex praises the bravery and pioneering spirit of those first local families who have enrolled their children, and puts immense pressure on himself to make the project work. “They are taking a big risk with their children’s futures and putting their trust in me,“ he said. He is confident the school will deliver though. “Once others see how happy these children are at school, more will follow.”
One of their greatest areas of success and sources of pride are the scholarships that they have been able to offer to local school children. Bright, intelligent children that Alex says could not reach their potential in the local, stretched, public system.
With so much achieved in such a short space of time, Lockheed says the first few weeks of school will be quite a challenge, but it is one that she is ready for and excited about. Going forward her hopes and ambitions for the school seem unlimited: securing accreditation with the Ministerio de Educacion Publica (MEP), building more classrooms, awarding more scholarships, building a science lab, and creating a high school which will offer an International Baccalaureate qualification.
For now, she and Escuela Bilingue Futuro Verde can boast of a truly diverse school population with a true blend of international and Costa Rican students.
To find out more about this project, donate, or volunteer visit www.futuro-verde.org.