Seeing Costa Rican school children thrust their arms out of windows to excitedly wave hello, was an eye-opening experience for Raines High School students Dana Adams, Le’Shonte’a Ethridge, and recent graduate Joshua McAfee. The three were among 17 DCPS students who spent two weeks in June in Costa Rica teaching English to local school children as part of the cultural immersion D.U.T.Y. (Duval.Urban.Traveling.Youth.) program.
This initiative was created by three-time Raines High School Teacher of the Year, Michael Bostic-Jones. The young Raines students were amazed by the Costa Rican students focus and determination. “The way they valued education was impressive…they were so excited,” said McAfee. “You could see it in their faces that they really wanted to learn.”
LeShonte’ Ethridge agreed, noting the contrast between the Costa Rican children and their American counterparts. “They were hanging out of the windows,” echoed Ethridge, a senior at Raines. “They were more excited than we were.”
The school children’s thirst for knowledge was just one of the highlights for the Viking contingent. In addition to teaching English, the students also had the opportunity to work on a coffee farm, dig wells, learn meringue and salsa dancing. The group also visited both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and took a trek through the Rainforest.
“It’s all part of the three C’s,” said Bostic-Jones, who created the program in 2015 as a way to help urban youth broaden their minds and develop social consciousness. The three C’s are Conservation Work (students worked on a coffee farm), Community Service (teaching English to the local school children) and Cultural Immersion (they stayed and fellowshipped with local host families).
One of the first students to participate in the program can attest to that. As a junior in 2015, Omar Howard had never stepped foot on a plane. However, he agreed to go on the trip and despite having a monkey steal his swim trunks one night, Howard says his trip was one of the best experiences of his life and ignited the globetrotter within him. As a junior at the University of Florida minoring in Spanish, Howard just completed a study abroad semester in Madrid.
Much like his students, many have never traveled overseas before visiting Costa Rica. Students are now developing a passion for international experiences and travel. This summer Bostic-Jones will be moving to Hong Kong to work as an educator. He says not to worry about the program because there is great leadership in place at Raines to continue and hopefully grow the initiative. “The D.U.T.Y Program is something I am extremely passionate about,” he said. “My physical presence will not diminish the vision I have for this program and our youth.”