For those who were not able to join in-person or watch online, below is an excerpt from the message delivered by EARTH President José Zaglul to the graduating class during the 2011 graduation ceremony on December 9.
Graduates, wherever you go don’t conform to the status quo. Fight for your ideals. Seek to be extraordinary citizens. Promote peace, solidarity and understanding. You are trained and have the scientific and technical knowledge, but remember that this is not enough, that you also have to act with love, awareness, justice and to benefit those who have the least.
Don’t make the mistake of measuring your success solely by the accumulation of wealth or material possessions. Your triumphs should be measured by the contributions that you make to society and the role that you play in building a better world.
Graduates, before concluding, I want to refer to a fundamental aspect of EARTH. As you know, the University depends on external resources to cover our costs and offer educational opportunities to young people without the economic resources for higher education. All of you, even those who paid tuition, have received support from one or many donors who believed in you and who, in spite of the difficult global economic situation of recent years, invested in your education and enabled us to maintain our scholarship and financing goals.
We want to thank those who believed in these young men and women, in us and in our mission. I am sure that these young graduates will demonstrate that this partnership is worth it and that your investment will produce fruit in abundance for the world. Many thanks.
Graduates, we have all dedicated the best of ourselves to you. We trust in your potential and commitment.
Enjoy your day and may life take you on the path of good to bring pride and glory to you, your family, your community, your country and for the benefit of humanity.
Excerpt from EARTH commencement address
December 9, 2011
EARTH Alumni Christopher Lengodo and Robert Lechipan from Kenya who graduated this past December 9 would never have predicted spending a good portion of their last year at EARTH in public restrooms.
Under the supervision of EARTH Soil Science professor, B.K. Singh, for their Graduation Project the pair tested the disinfectant properties of OK Green Care, a natural cleaner developed by EARTH University. Currently distributed in Costa Rica by Grupo Chaso, the product’s active ingredients are microbial metabolites, which control microorganism growth.
From the beginning, Christopher and Robert saw the product’s potential for Kenya. “Kenya has many sanitation problems and providing an option for cleaning public areas sounded really promising,” explains Robert.
Throughout 2011 they did microbial testing in four highly-trafficked bathrooms in the nearby town of Siquirres. After growing samples in a culture medium, the pair found significant fungal and bacterial growth in the samples taken prior to the product application, while samples taken after product application showed no microbial growth. They repeated this testing procedure several times and then switched methodologies to expedite the testing process.
“Our lab tests took 48 hours, but in a daycare setting you don’t have 48 hours to determine if there’s E. Coli present,” explained Robert. So they contacted Chaso to buy an ATP meter, a hand-held testing device that measures Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP)—the energy molecule found in animal, plant, bacterial, yeast and mould cells. ATP meters are commonly used in food processing to measure surface cleanliness in seconds.
“They [Chaso] were really surprised that we were using it to test toilet samples,” laughed Christopher.
And the results?
“The product works—enzyme activity reduces after the treatment,” remarks Christopher.
When asked what toilets have to do with agriculture, Christopher and Robert confidently affirm that they are inextricably linked.
“Here [at EARTH] we focus on building sustainable communities. Public health is part of that,” reflects Christopher.
Robert adds, “In the long run, we have to combine agriculture and public health. Our production systems and how waste water is treated affects the health of people. And that affects agriculture, because sick people can’t work.”
Convinced of the product’s effectiveness, the pair is eager to develop a similar product in Kenya.
“The conditions are really favorable in Kenya to introduce this kind of product— it’s affordable, the need is great and there is no competition in natural products,” comments Christopher adding that the product could treat trench water and reduce flies and odors in Kibera, one of the world’s largest slums on the outskirts of Nairobi.
Even before they saw this product as a potential business opportunity, the pair had plans to start a waste management project together in Kenya. While they don’t yet have the start-up capital for either project, their enthusiasm and confidence flow in abundance.
“B.K. is like a father and a mentor to us,” relates Robert with affection. “He tells us that money is never a problem to start something—to think of a good idea and the money will come.”
On December 9, EARTH University graduated 102 leaders for change in a moving ceremony on the University’s campus. With this class, which is comprised of 41 women and 61 men and included for the first time students from South Africa and Switzerland, EARTH now has 1,650 alumni. During the commencement activities, the University awarded Juan Sebastián Gambin from Colombia the 2011 EARTH Prize in recognition of his academic excellence, values, and social and environmental commitment during his four years at EARTH.
The ceremony on the EARTH campus was attended by more than 1,000 people, including the families of the graduating students, diplomats, government officials, donors, partners and EARTH students and staff. The event was also broadcast online in both Spanish and English, attracting more than 1,200 views and 600 unique visitors.
In recognition of his exceptional leadership, ethics and social responsibility during his 40-year career at Cummins, Inc. and his extraordinary commitment and support of our Institution, on December 9, EARTH University awarded Tim Solso an honorary doctorate. For the occasion, he was joined by his wife Denny and children, as well as Cummins executives Tom Linebarger, Jean Blackwell and Marya Rose. Tim also delivered the keynote address at the commencement ceremony, a recording of which is available online at www.earth.ac.cr/graduacion2011.
Following his address, United States Ambassador to Costa Rica, Anne Andrew, presented Mr. Solso with a certificate of appreciation from the U.S. Embassy for his heartfelt commitment to EARTH University and his visionary support for the U.S. Government’s foreign aid and development programs in Costa Rica and across the globe.
During the graduation ceremony on December 9, The Sustainability Laboratories (www.sustainabilitylabs.org) awarded graduating students Yngrid Espinoza from Peru and Kenia Betancourth from Honduras the 2011 Sustainability Prize, which consists of a $10,000 cash award in recognition of their graduation project’s fulfillment of the principals of sustainability. Their graduation project consisted in developing a self-sufficiency program in the Technical Professional High School in Los Chiles, Alajuela, Costa Rica. Throughout 2011, Yngrid and Kenia worked collaboratively with the parents’ association and school administrators, teachers and students to implement five integrated production areas (poultry, cattle, swine, peri-urban gardens, and orange groves) capable of supplying, to a great extent, the food required by the school. Their results and experiences were documented in their graduation project as a guide that could be used for replicating self-sufficiency programs in other rural educational centers.
In an effort to promote a culture of high-quality production and environmental and social responsibility, EARTH alumna Susana Chaves (’04, Costa Rica) has developed and implemented an organic certification and quality verification program for Café Britt, a well known and respected coffee company in Costa Rica. Her project resulted in a 94 percent increase in the quality of the organic coffee collected from the company’s more than 1,000 coffee suppliers.
As part of the program, Chaves implemented a methodology to test every coffee delivery at the mill. If the coffee met the criteria, the producer would receive a financial bonus.
“I personally think that the greatest difference is the social component as we rewarded the efforts of the producer, the bonuses were given during difficult months and there was an incentive for producers to make the practice part of a culture,” explained Susana.
Another EARTH alumnus making strides in coffee production in Costa Rica is Carlos Ortiz (’06, Costa Rica), who is arduously working on an initiative for the Volcafé Benefit. The project aims to assist Costa Rican coffee producers in improving their agricultural, social, environmental and economic practices through training workshops.
The training covers aspects related to coffee production, such as the use of protective equipment, minimum salaries, efficient use of inputs, land conservation, productivity and fertilization.
“About 2,900 coffee producers in 60 communities [in Costa Rica] have benefited from the program since 2008,” said Carlos, the project’s creator.
The program also donates trees to the farmers to provide shade to the coffee plants and conserve ecosystems, first aid kits, materials for soil conservation and protective equipment for workers.
Just last month, both Chaves and Ortiz were featured in Costa Rica’s weekly business journal El Financiero, in the 2011 list of “40 under 40,” which recognizes the country’s top forty leaders under 40 years of age.
EARTH alumni, Susana Chaves and Carlos Ortiz have excelled in the Costa Rican coffee sector through their individual projects with which they have promoted a quality filled product that is both environmentally friendly and where producers are benefited in the process.
By Vanessa I. Garnica
Each year hundreds of students apply to EARTH University with the hopes of becoming leaders of change. Most would not be able to attend the University without a scholarship.
Kenneth Bolivar, a recent EARTH graduate from the Talamanca region in the Province of Limón, Costa Rica, applied twice before the full scholarship he required was available.
“I had waited a long time; anyone else would have given up, but not me. When they called me to say that I had been admitted with a full scholarship thanks to a donor, it was overwhelming. To tell the truth, it was impossible not to cry from joy,” recalls Kenneth.
EARTH provides financial aid to all of its students and some 50 percent receive full scholarships. To make this possible the Institution relies on scholarship donations from governments, individuals, foundations, and corporations. These scholarship gifts often come with conditions that reflect the specific regional, ethnic or gender interests and grant making guidelines of the donors.
Restrictions become problematic when there are no suitable candidates with the specified characteristics in any given year, and the scholarships may go unused; or when there are outstanding and highly qualified (but economically needy) applicants who do not fit the conditions of any of the available scholarships, and therefore must be passed over for admission, as in the case of Kenneth.
In response, this year the University created the EARTH Opportunity Scholarship Fund, an unrestricted scholarship fund that will be used to support the very best candidates regardless of characteristics such as gender, origin, and nationality.
Mr. Bobby Moser, vice president for agricultural administration and dean at Ohio State University, was one of the first donors to the EARTH Opportunity Scholarship Fund. He has been giving to EARTH since 2009 and saw the newly created fund as a way to enable EARTH to admit the most promising young leaders regardless of their capacity to pay.
“I remember well wanting to go to college (many years ago) and not knowing how I was going to do that. Without the help and support of other people, I would never have made it,” explained Dr. Moser. “There are many who could not attend college without the support of others. I view my support as an investment in the life and potential of a student to reach his or her potential, and further the food and agricultural industry for the future.”
Mr. Bobby Moser says that it is critical that today’s students are well-trained in food and agriculture and that an Institution such as EARTH is enabling young people to become leaders in these fields.
On November 12, Good Runs Productions hosted the Hill Country Tail Race at Serenbe in Palmetto, Georgia. For the second year, the “Run for EARTH” attracted more than 800 runners from the Atlanta-metro area. A percentage of all entry fees and photos from the scenic 5k and 15k races went to help support the programs at EARTH University. A group of students from Westminster School participated as “phantom runners,” raising $1,000 for EARTH.
On November 4, more than 200 people attended a fundraising event in New York City organized by EARTH’s President’s Young Advisory Board (PYAB). Under the leadership of PYAB members Edward Brenninkmeyer, Amanda Hawila, Sophie Morrison and Cameron McLain, the event raised a net profit of $27,000 for the University. The activity, which aimed to raise support and awareness for EARTH among young professionals, was held at The Bowery Hotel and included a live performance from Filligar, a Chicago-based rock band.
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Produced by: EARTH University Office of Communications (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 2011.