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Reading Youths Visit Costa Rica, Return With New Insight

In April, 17 Reading youths from Parker Middle School’s Eco Club took a field trip that gave them sharp new insights into their own lives.

The group visited Costa Rica for more than a week of charity work, adventure and cultural exploration. Two of the youths who participated in the trip told the Reading Public Schools Committee this week that their experience will have a lasting impact on their lives.

“I don’t think you can truly understand it until you see it first had,” said Jack Bloom, one of the students who went on the trip.

Bloom said that, upon returning from the trip, he has tried to reduce his beef consumption. During his eight days in Costa Rica, he said, the group didn’t eat any beef because the Costa Ricans avoided most red meat.

Costa Ricans view the way cows are raised for slaughter as inhumane, unsustainable and unhealthy to humans, he said, due to the fact that they are penned in, fed corn instead of grass and given a steady diet of antibiotics.

Kerry Bowe, another of the trip’s participants, said she has been doing additional research about our modern food system since her return, but that she was also struck by how the Costa Rican children live.

Her group visited a Costa Rican school primarily to repaint it. The Parker youths brought paint and classroom supplies and tried to teach their counterparts how to play baseball.

They had no bat or ball. So, they used a stick.

The Costa Rican youths didn’t have much as far as material items, she said—Bloom noted that the entire school had a single soccer ball and that some of the kids didn’t have shoes—but they made the most of what they had.

“They just use whatever they have on hand and they have fun with it,” she said.

During the trip, the students kept a blog documenting their experiences, which you can see at parkerincostarica.blogspot.com.

While the youths took valuable experiences away from the trip, its shape may differ next year. After three years of running the Eco Club, teacher Sean Musselman will be moving on.

Parker Principal Doug Lyons said that he doesn’t know if the club will “continue in the same form that it’s currently in,” but that the school will attempt to maintain the program. 

“We’ll be back in front of you asking permission soon enough,” he told the committee.

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