25 years have passed since Ada graduated. Her four years at EARTH are ever-present in her memories – the many adventures, the endless knowledge, the countless friendships. She says that whenever she and her classmates from the Class of 1994 return to campus, the burdens of adulthood seem to dissipate. They again become the young people who used to employ machetes on academic farms, pen poetry while creating a University newspaper, and care for each other under any circumstance.
Pablo Céspedes (’94, Costa Rica) comes from a family of farmers. For him, pastoral life brought adventures and opportunities. At 19 years old, he had started a business with his uncle, selling wooden footbridges for banana farms. When Pablo learned of EARTH’s founding, he wanted to be part of it. He was drawn to its mix of social-impact theory, science and entrepreneurship. He says that thanks to EARTH he grew up, overcoming deeply entrenched rebelliousness. Nowadays, he is still immensely proud of the professional and person his education has empowered him to become.Ana Hazel Pérez (’94, Costa Rica) and Pablo got married in 2000. Together, they created La Anita Rainforest Ranch in Upala, Costa Rica. The project – an ecotourism refuge and organic cacao plantation – is a family business that has been a source of employment for many people in their community and as well as a model for responsible farming.
Ana Hazel long wanted to work as an agricultural scientist. When she heard of EARTH, it seemed to have been created especially for her. Then, the admissions process began. She wrote an essay narrating all the reasons why she wanted to become an agronomist, a leader of change and a student at EARTH. She took an admissions exam. She attended an interview with two professors who conversed warmly with her. She felt welcomed immediately.
Luis Diego Escorriola (’94, Costa Rica) was finishing high school when he saw a story about EARTH in the news. In the early 1990s, he visited the campus and was amazed at its facilities, academic program, entrepreneurial approach, and advanced technology. He remembers fondly what his first experiences at the University were like: seeing himself with a machete in hand, readying a space to eventually become “a beautiful orchard that looks like a garden” – a learning farm.Luis Diego recalls the great joy he experienced in animal-production courses, in which he learned about livestock farming and artificial insemination. He was young, insatiably curious and eager to learn. He counts himself lucky to have been surrounded by high-energy educators eager to guide and share. Ada seconded that: “Their support was incredible. The professors had a special spirit, loving us as if we were their children, and promoting cordiality and kindness among us. They shaped us to become a solid and positive foundation for the University and for our communities.”
A life philosophy, livedEven though Ana Hazel was certain she wanted to be an agronomist, she was apprehensive about the profession seeming too structured. When she arrived at EARTH, she discovered another philosophy for doing agriculture – part of a lifestyle that was more holistic and inclusive. Each day, she and Pablo strive to do their work while respecting the wellbeing of others, believing that the advancement and privilege they attained at EARTH should benefit their community, their country and the world.
Ada says the road has not been easy, being a woman in a male-dominated career. EARTH opened the path and prepared her, but she has had to be the one to fight repeatedly for gender equality in the field. Ada has worked in banana plantations and floriculture. She worked as a teacher and specialized in cooperation and development. An enterprising and visionary woman, she continues to live in accordance with the ethical values instilled in her a quarter century ago.
Luis Diego’s concern for generating sustainable solutions in packaging and post-harvest processes is a driving force in his daily work. From the University, he understood the ever-evolving nature of agronomy. “Twenty-five years ago, professors would say: ‘We are teaching you all this, but things are going to change. It is important that, as future agronomists, you continue to educate yourselves, inform yourselves and innovate. You have to be change agents for the future and for the present.’”The four graduates say that 25 years have passed too quickly for them and their cohort of 45 young people from 11 different nations. They think of all the faces that were part of EARTH’s second graduating class, and they speak of indelible memories, of inexhaustible laughter, of a world-class ethical education that will never cease to be part of their lives. This year, they will meet again at EARTH’s Guácimo Campus along with classes that turn 5, 10, 15 and 20 years of graduation for a Class Reunion event where they will relive old times and proudly celebrate more than two decades of shared memories.