December is a special month. It has the power to galvanize our entire community and remind us, through Graduation Week, how vital our work is in training capable, empathetic, proactive change leaders. These people seek, above all, to shape their communities, countries, and the whole world into a place where people can live in dignity and harmony with nature.
On December 17, wearing graduation caps and gowns, the Class of 2021 paraded through the Guácimo Campus gymnasium to receive their degrees as agronomic engineers. Surrounded by tropical exuberance, 54 women and 55 men from 30 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa successfully completed their time at EARTH.
When they leave our campus that has been their home for 4 years, we know that they will fight every day for their communities’ economic and social development and the conservation of natural resources and biodiversity. They will carry forward their commitment to the values of their alma mater, as have the 2,547 graduates from 52 nations before them, who have become seeds of hope for humanity.
As in 2020, this year’s graduation followed measures imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic for community safety. Even so, the Ministry of Health endorsed a more optimistic context in Costa Rica due to a decrease in the numbers of people infected, which allowed students to invite a loved one to share in their significant moment. All guests had to comply with the proper health parameters to enter the Guácimo Campus. Thus, the Graduation Ceremony was filled with warm applause from visitors who traveled from all over Costa Rica and the world to join us such memorable morning.
Despite the rigurous guidelines, the ceremony was pleasant in every way. While hundreds of people accompanied us virtually through live streaming, Costa Rican singer-songwriter Guadalupe Urbina flooded the gym with her music and poetry. Costa Rica’s President, Carlos Alvarado addressed the recent graduates with kind words, followed by the keynote speaker, Bolivian leader Marcela Escobari, who gave an inspiring speech motivating everyone who listened. In addition, EARTH University President Arturo Condo spoke about the importance of living consistent with EARTH’s values.
Graduate José Alfredo García Nolasco (Honduras) received the “Best Classmate Companion” award. His classmates chose him through a secret ballot considering his solidarity, dedication, and commitment to others. Also, every year, the University recognizes, through the EARTH Award, the graduate who, throughout their training, is outstanding in their academic excellence, human values, social responsibility, and environmental awareness.. It is the highest distinction awarded to an EARTH student. For the second time in the University’s history, the EARTH Award was given simultaneously to two graduates: Arnold Katende (Uganda) and Eduardo José Melgar Araya (Honduras). All present celebrated the well-deserved recognition to both.
The traditional dinner at the University President’s house was carried out on December 14, where graduates shared personal anecdotes about their time at EARTH. During the dinner, Brenda Bih Chi (Cameroon) received the Heliconia Award, founded 20 years ago for officials, students of any year, and faculty to nominate and choose a student who stands out for their social commitment and for nurturing EARTH’S values.
“I have looked forward to this day; it is the last we are going to share together as a family. You have all been part of my personal development. I can’t compare the Brenda who came here four years ago to the one I am today. I learned to express myself, regardless of my gender. I always keep in mind something that Dean Yanine Chan told us: when we get out of here, we don’t have to let the world change us; we have to change the world ourselves. We are agents of change. I already want to go out because I have a fire within to make big changes,” said Brenda when she received the award.
We close the year celebrating the success of the 109 graduates who now head out into the world ready to use that internal fire that Brenda described, the desire to be the light, transform lives, and cultivate dignity. “Standing trees, firm roots, resilient souls” is the motto of a student body that not only faced abrupt changes in the last two years but also sought to create new opportunities amid adversity.
Thank you, Class of 2021, for teaching us so much and shaping a path for others to follow!