July 3, 2018 - 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 the first two weeks of 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; an initiative created by three-time Raines High School Teacher of the Year, Michael Bostic-Jones.
“The way they valued education…they were so excited,” said McAfee. “You could see it in their faces that they really wanted to learn.”
Both Adams and Ethridge agreed, noting the contrast between the Costa Rican school 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 students. In addition to teaching English, the students also had the opportunity to work on a coffee farm, dig wells, learn meringue and salsa dancing, visit both the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean, and see 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).
In the five years that Bostic-Jones has brought students to Costa Rica, he has seen 180-degree transformations in student’s behavior, leadership aspirations, career goals, and outlook on life.
“It’s been life-changing,” said Bostic-Jones.
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 with his mentor, Bostic-Jones, anyway.
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.
Just like Howard, Adams had never traveled overseas before her time in Costa Rica. She says now that she has returned, she is going to encourage all of her friends and classmates to go on the trip next year.
“I feel like this world has so much to offer,” said Adams. “You don’t need to be confined to just your space.”
Which is advice that Bostic-Jones himself is taking. After five years of teaching social studies at Raines, he will be making the journey to Hong Kong to work as an educator there. Despite his not being local, Bostic-Jones said he has a team of people in place to make sure the D.U.T.Y. program continues and even expands.
"The D.U.T.Y Program is something I am extremely passionate about,” said Bostic-Jones. “My physical presence will not diminish the vision I have for this program and our youth."