This past summer, William Coe ‘14, Tyler Confrey-Maloney ‘13, Vincent Feucht ‘11, Jeb Fox ‘14, Luke Perkins ‘14, and Garik Sadovy ‘12 traveled to Belize for a two week experiential learning trip focusing on education, the economy, and the environment.
The team consisted of an eclectic group of individuals, among them a pre-med philosopher, an English major, and future engineers representing areas including biological and agricultural, chemical, civil, and materials science engineering.
The students developed the Central American experience under the guidance of Dr. Clifford Griffin, associate professor of political science in the School of Public and International Affairs. Griffin serves as chair of the Park Advisory Committee and as a member of the Park Enrichment Grant Committee; he was also a Park Faculty Scholar for the Class of 2011.
While in Belize, the students worked with the Holy Cross Anglican School and The Belize Zoo where they participated in service-learning projects. In the process, the Park Scholars interacted with local residents to build relationships and gain a better understanding of geography, industry, culture, and community needs.
During the first part of their trip on San Mateo, the students rose at 5:00am each morning to paint classroom roofs at the Holy Cross Anglican School with a reflective coating. The coating was designed to reduce the temperature of each room, which could easily exceed 100 degrees, so that schoolchildren would have access to an environment more conducive to learning.
Confrey-Maloney and Sadovy also evaluated the water treatment system used at the school to recycle wastewater. They consulted with NC State faculty via email on the system, and drafted a proposal for the school’s director which identified improvements.
“This is what my education is for — I now feel like there’s a purpose to what I’ve been learning and I could see myself doing this for my whole life,” said Confrey-Maloney.
After completing the roof and water treatment projects, the team traveled to The Belize Zoo, outside of Belmopan, where they spent their second week rebuilding a Jabiru stork aviary for injured birds. Students shoveled massive amounts of mud for a pond, cleared debris, hauled rocks, and then assembled a habitat according to designs they had created in consultation with staff members at the zoo. The Park Scholars also had the opportunity to learn about jaguar rehabilitation and how the zoo uses education to facilitate environmental conservation in the country.
Park Scholars construct a habitat for injured Jabiru storks.
The group’s experience at The Belize Zoo was supplemented by the fact that the Scholars were staying at the guest house of Emmy Award-winning cinematographer Richard Foster. Foster, who has worked on National Geographic features such as Land of the Anaconda and Tropical Kingdom of Belize, graciously shared his lifetime of extensive wildlife experience with the students.
“To put it simply, the people we interacted with and work we accomplished have forever changed my approach to life,” said Fox. “I came away from the trip with the knowledge to begin work on my own non-profit organization because our work with the Holy Cross Anglican School provided me with many of the answers that I had been searching for.”
The team is developing an infrastructure to lead future trips of Park Scholars back to Belize to continue working with local residents on community projects.