Class of 2014-2017
Country: Costa Rica
Darling is 18 years old and comes from the rural tropical town of Sarapiquí, in the province of Heredia, Costa Rica. She attended primary school there, and then went on to a small local environmental high school. She is the eldest of five and lives with her mother, stepfather and her siblings. Her parents had separated when she was still an infant, so she was raised by her stepfather who is a farmer and cultivates plantain in a small piece of land they own. Her stepfather finished middle school and is also a trader who sells produce in order to support their family. Her mother is a stay-at-home mom and only finished one year of high school. Darling will be the first in her family to attend university.
Darling has enjoyed farming since she was a child. During primary school she participated in farming activities at least once a week through special local projects and took part in recycling campaigns and educational workshops. Because her high school was specialized in conservation, she was able to take agricultural courses, and actively help organize environmental and touristic festivals and events. She also had the opportunity to learn about agriculture, organic farming, hydroponics, food production and sustainability.
During her fourth year, her class took several field trips to EARTH University as part of the curriculum. “When I visited EARTH I knew immediately that this was the place I needed to study at. I started researching the admissions process right away. Our high school also received an admissions seminar with EARTH representatives in 2011 so I was able to learn more about the process.” Darling applied however, she was not offered admission that year. “I was disappointed at the time but I kept going. I started taking some courses at the Costa Rican National Learning Institute (INA). I finished a diploma as an Administrative Assistant, specialized in Agricultural Enterprises and Touristic and Environmental Law.”
Darling reapplied for admission in 2013 and was finally admitted and offered financial support. “I was so happy! My parents were so proud! It has been very hard for us. We have just enough to get by. We’ve gone through very hard times. I couldn’t believe that I had been offered this opportunity, and to top it off a full scholarship! I just love being here at EARTH. It is so different and diverse. It has been incredible meeting new people from different countries. For example, my roommate is from Nigeria and I am so interested in learning about her culture and her language and the ways in which they do agriculture.”
Darling would like to specialize in conservation. “I would like to help local farmers in my town understand the impact that big banana plantations are having on the environment. They need to worry about conserving the rivers and the land. Most of the people there are Nicaraguan immigrants who need a lot of support and training. I would like to stress the importance of not solely depending on one type of crop (bananas; transnational companies can go at any time and leave so many people unemployed, and leave the land in a very bad state.” Darling believes that education is the key to developing her community. She would like to develop educational family plans and involve students from a young age. “The problem is that the kids in my area grow up thinking that they will go and work for the banana plantations and that’s it. They are not being taught any other options. I want to change this inherited lack of vision and show them how to create their own companies and diversify the crops they cultivate, while preserving our natural resources.”