This year marks EARTH University’s 30th anniversary – one unexpectedly overrun by crises of global health and economy. Although the past several months have challenged people and processes, our community has strived to see the light in the darkness. We have fought to nurture our positivity, prioritize wellbeing, and reinvent ourselves whenever necessary.
The fruits of these collective efforts were borne on Dec. 4, when 103 students were conferred their diplomas. Through dedication and empathy, these newly minted agricultural entrepreneurs managed to complete all four years of study and, despite the present pandemic, carry out meticulously crafted research projects.
Graduation Week at EARTH is always a merry time. Traditionally, students’ families travel from around the world to Costa Rica, to proudly witness their sons and daughters conclude their undergraduate degree. This year, however, friends and relatives celebrated from the safety of home. Despite the distance, their love and well wishes were palpable. At our Guácimo Campus, graduating students were accompanied by President Arturo Condo, Dean Yanine Chan, faculty members, and event-logistics staff – all masked and distanced. The limited in-person attendees vigorously applauded the young leaders as they crossed the graduation stage, complementing the cheers of those tuning in online.
“Our cohort is very close, committed to the common good, and determined to turn every moment into a happy memory,” said Andrés Aymerich (Costa Rica), in the farewell address he wrote to his classmates. “We are a generation that takes pride in the triumphs of our peers. We are a resilient generation. What better proof is there than being the Class of COVID-19!?”
During Graduation Week, several students were awarded for their perseverance, personal growth, and effort. Armand Yambisa (Zambia) and Francely Flores (Guatemala), both Mastercard Foundation Scholars, received the Heliconia Prize, which recognizes the fourth-year students who most fully embody what it means to be an EARTH graduate. The entire student body, faculty, and staff had the opportunity to nominate students who excel as leaders and community members. Obed Azofeifa (Costa Rica) received an honorable mention for his perpetual enthusiasm, principled nature, and exemplary tolerance. Yulyana Duarte (Costa Rica) was chosen as the Best Companion.
Francely also received the EARTH Prize, our University’s top award, which is determined based on leadership ability, teamwork, and active participation in the learning process. She was honored a third time when she and two classmates – Juana Suar (Guatemala) and Mónica Montoya (Colombia) – received the Sustainability Prize, given in conjunction with The Sustainability Laboratory, for which they were granted US$10,000 to expand their business, producing a cleaner-burning firewood substitute. Dasha Montcalm (Costa Rica) and Andrés Charpentier (Costa Rica) won second place for creating MEPPA, a promoter of ancestral-agriculture education in the peri-urban environment.
To our Class of 2020: Thank you for the deep maturity and buoyant resilience you have demonstrated throughout these trying times. Never forget that EARTH will always be your home and that you are – and forever will be – hijos de la tierra. Congratulations on your innumerable accomplishments!