Ryerson MBA Students Volunteer in Costa Rica

This past month, some of Ryerson’s brightest MBA candidates volunteered their time over reading week to a teaching project abroad. Partnering with the International Volunteer Headquarters and Maximo Nivel, eleven Ryerson MBA students embarked on a rewarding and unforgettable experience to the city of San Jose, Costa Rica.

With only a short window of opportunity to make an impact, the entire group recognized the fact that they had to take charge and show initiative in order to make the most out of this opportunity. On their first day of orientation they learned that they would be teaching at El Escuela Carmelo – a private school for underprivileged children and youth. The school was located in Barrio Cuba, one of the poorest neighborhoods in San Jose. The locals frequently referred to the school as a “beacon of hope” for the community and the city.

El Escuela Carmelo is made up of over 300 students with ages ranging from 2-16. The school was not only focused the education of its students; it was equally important to the institution to exert a positive influence on students’ lives.

“… It’s clear that every student wanted to be socializing, learning and developing the necessary skills to one day become successful members of society. I give Magda Vela, the class’ homeroom teacher, credit for this. Magda does not blindly push material on her students. Rather, she frequently reminds them that the skills they learn at Carmelo will help in their journey become productive members of society; and it hits home” Patrick Forbes, MBA-MTI full-time student

For many students, El Escuela Carmelo served as a refuge from the harsh realities of poverty in San Jose. This was something that really struck home with the Ryerson MBA group, and it motivated everyone to bring their best to the classroom to make a positive impact.

The group was split into three teams responsible for teaching primary, middle and high school students. Although English instruction and conversation was the primary task set out for the group, there was very little curriculum available at the school for them to work with. However this did not discourage the volunteers. At the middle and high school level, this presented opportunities for the students to contribute to the direction of the class and conversation throughout the week:

“Our teacher challenged us to invent class material after the first day, and we were so successful that he entrusted us with this responsibility for the rest of the week. I remember being nervous at first because I do not know how to speak Spanish, but over the duration it was a pleasure to watch the students yearn to learn new words and see them comprehend previously unknown concepts…” Christina Butty, MBA Global full-time student

What surprised just about every member of the group was the student’s impressive enthusiasm for English. Regardless of their varying skills in reading, writing and pronunciation, almost every student was excited to engage the Ryerson MBA group both inside and outside the classroom. This enthusiasm and the welcoming atmosphere of El Escuela Carmelo were taken to heart by the Ryerson MBA group, and it made for an unforgettable and rewarding experience.

“Personally, what struck me the most on our first day and throughout our stay was the discipline and respect with which the students interacted with each other and their instructors.  Moreover, the students were avid learners and eager to show us how much they already knew.  My team was assigned to students from grade 1 to 6 (Class size between 30 and 36).  At each level, we were pleasantly surprised to see how easily the students absorbed our lessons, their level of comprehension and the ease with which they were able to modify their pronunciation once we took the time to slowly enunciate the words for them.” Sheslie Senat, MBA Global part-time student

The group was not only fortunate in being able to spend time working with the children and youth of San Jose, but the experience also brought the MBA students together and challenged their team-working skills. Each member of the team felt honored to be a part of the experience, and it is their hope that endeavors like this will continue to be a part of the Ryerson MBA program in the future.

“This experience reminded us that success is best measured by the legacy we leave behind and that our time to make a difference is limited and should not be hindered by our complacency. I am proud to be a part of a school that instills strong social engagement and community involvement, qualities that are necessary to be a truly responsible global denizen. Thank you Ryerson MBA and to everyone involved that made this experience possible!!!” Carlos Castaneda, MBA Global full-time student


Summary of Details

Trip duration: February 17th – 23rd

Participants: 11 Ryerson MBA Students

Program: English Instruction

Location: San Jose, Costa Rica

By Jonathan Chu, VP Internal Relations MBA Student Association

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