Liceo Rural UlukKicha is a high school located in a small community named Sharabata, Chirripó Turrialba. This high school started in 2019 with 30 students coming from all the neighborhoods and today in 2023 it has 100 students attending classes from Monday to Friday. For students walking four hours to attend school and returning back home it is something that they practice every day from Monday to Friday. Costa Rica has eight different indigenous communities formally recognized, and this Cabécar population is one of the eight groups that still possess its own culture and language among them. It is common to find teachers in primary schools teaching Spanish and Cabécar the native language that children use to speak with friends and family at home.
I grew up in the community helping neighbors and family doing community service work in order to improve the life especially of young people. In 2019 right after college I started the job as an English teacher at this beautiful and remote school Liceo Rural UlukKicha, and since then I have been working so hard to support students to achieve their dream which is to finish high school and leave the community to attend four years of college. I figured out that to embrace the education in the community I needed to build more network not only in the country but internationally as well. So, as to begin I attended a conference of teachers of English organized by TEC Cartago, and while attending this event I met Bruce Callow and his wife Ana Luisa Monge both the authors of the book “To the Stars: Costa Rica in NASA”. I immediately extended to them an invitation to visit our school and workshop with students about science and technology and talk about his outreach project. Suddenly, he accepted my invitation and became our first visitor who is someone close to NASA and his workshop was wonderful for all our students. Right after he left, I continued doing workshops related to science and technology on a small scale as in these pictures.
I began to understand that technology is fundamental for the younger generation and that every child needs to have a basic access to all resources if we want to promote a competitive and equal education for them. So, I started doing more research about the field of science and technology and that pushed me to make a solo travel to attend the Space Exploration Educators Conference (SEEC) at the Johnson Space Center Houston. This trip gave me the chance to talk and to listen to experts on science and technology especially in space education. Once I returned back to school, I felt that I came with more information to share with students and to show them that most of the dream is possible to achieve if we keep the trail with high motivation. This trip opened an opportunity for me and for students and showed them that most of our dream is achievable and we can set a clear goal and work hard to achieve it. It also leveled up my confidence about how to present projects and talk to others clearly and confidently.
Right after I returned back to school I really focused on my project and worked day and night on developing ideas and how to embrace it. After my solo trip to Johnson Space Center, I thought it might be a good idea to organize an academic trip with students to visit the University of Costa Rica especially the faculty of engineering and science. So, I started discussing with someone inside the National Academic of Science of Costa Rica about the possibility to bring a group of students to visit the University of Costa Rica and the Planetarium because I considered that giving to the students the opportunity to explore and find themselves on a college campus is fundamental for their future career goal.
Dayana Mora who is in charge of the National Academic of Science of Costa Rica played a key role with all the logistics of the trip. Thanks to her wonderful support these young indigenous students for the first time had the chance to experience and explore the five different labs and the planetary function about planets and phenomena that occur in our solar system.
In five years, I have tried to help and improve the education for this small community and I have traveled in search for ideas and build more network in order to bring the best of education for these young people. I have seen enormous impact on students and the community. As an example, our school is the first one to have students studying in the University of Costa Rica from the whole Cabécar territory in Chirripó.
More recently, LeRoy Larry, astrophysicist and a former member of the NASA Galileo Mission to Jupiter and I, we started our outreach project to collect school materials for the students. He is our invited commencement speaker for our 2023 high school graduating class, and will conduct workshops to introduce our students and teachers to physics. We hope that people could support us donating materials in order to accomplish our outreach mission.
Even though improvement is something that is not ignored by the population in the last five years, however, I consider there is still much to do if we want to offer a high standard of education to this almost forgotten community. The biggest challenge is to set up internet to enhance and power the education that students receive in the school. I personally believe that to expand knowledge, it is important to equip the school with all the resources that are possible. So, I have been talking to different institutions and NGOs about funding my project to set up internet for the school and I much hope that in the future I could find someone or organization interested to sponsor my project to bring connectivity for this school in order to embrace the education through technology.