Grads to teach English in Costa Rica

Alison Lucci

Four volunteers to meet Costa Rican president during 6-month trip

Thanks to grant money from an organization in Cleveland, four volunteers will teach English in Costa Rica.

The Office of International Affairs bid farewell to Director Mary Anne Saunders and four volunteers this morning. Saunders is accompanying the volunteers, two of whom are Kent State graduates, to Costa Rica to initiate a project awarded by the Cleveland Foundation with a $40,000 grant.

The Costa Rica English as a Second Language program will provide language training to current and potential employees in Costa Rica’s expanding hospitality and tourism industries. Saunders said “it is an honor” that the university was granted the $40,000 contract.

At a small bon voyage reception Jan. 23 in Van Campen Hall, Vice Provost Steve Michael thanked the volunteers for being “ambassadors to Kent State” because the program is a definite “way for Kent State to stay afloat during this depression.”

Upon arrival, the group will attend a welcome reception, hosted in their honor, by Costa Rica’s president Oscar Arias.

Shortly after, the group will meet with two volunteers already stationed in Costa Rica. All six volunteers will reside in the Guanacaste province with host families and teach in different schools throughout the area. They will stay in Guanacaste at least six months; however, the time period may be extended.

The Cleveland Foundation, an organization aimed at improving the lives of Clevelanders, funded the program as a way to promote a more “bilingual workforce” in the Cleveland area, Saunders said.

Shirley Yeh, a recent psychology graduate, is “very excited” for the project.

Yeh completed the Teaching English as a Second Language program in Germany, but now she said she “definitely wants to learn a lot more Spanish.”

While the program benefits Costa Ricans, it also provides a new opportunity for students pursuing a degree or certificate in the program to teach abroad and hone their Spanish skills.

The program could also increase enrollment in the Hospitality Management program as the university is introduced to Costa Ricans currently working in the hospitality industry, said Linda Robertson, director of Kent State’s Outreach Program.

Saunders, previously of George Washington University, was named director of the Office of International Affairs in September 2008. Saunders said she began work on obtaining the Costa Rica program from “day one” and is confident the program will be successful.

Saunders said Kent State is a “great university,” and she intends to increase the number of international students who go to Kent State, as well as the number of Kent State students who study abroad.

Saunders credits the English as a Second Language department for providing a “pipeline of volunteers,” a trend she hopes will continue as the program expands.

The next installment of volunteers is scheduled to depart for Costa Rica in June. Potential volunteers should have experience as an English as a Second Language practitioner and apply before mid-April, Saunders said.

Contact Honors College and Office of International Affairs reporter Alison Lucci at [email protected].