The planning process for NSA’s first-ever professional development week involving members of all departments began more than a year ago, when a need for an integrated approach to training was identified. Staff members from all departments not only participated, but collaborated in the identification of themes for workshops and the development of engaging, hands-on learning opportunities.
Some of the themes of these important community-building workshops included: Communication, Work/Life Balance, Leadership Development, Diversity, and Supportive Immersion – the foundational approach which has guided our success at NSA from the start.
The week wasn’t all work, however, as each workshop integrated fun, relationship-building activities that promoted experiential learning. Faculty and Staff also dedicated an evening to further develop their interpersonal relationships at a celebratory all-staff dinner. The week was extremely valuable, and is certain to become a regular part of our professional development at NSA.
- Our newest students and staff engaged in the busiest round of turtle egg relocation in recent memory, according to the Turtle Conservation Director, Manuel. Seven nests were located, with over 700 turtle eggs placed in the hatchery.
- Students who exceeded Aventura expectations earned the opportunity of a night patrol, and were rewarded with finding a giant turtle nesting on the beach!
- In an amazing cultural-immersion experience, NSA students and staff put forth a valiant effort but ultimately were defeated 3 to 0 by the rubber boot-wearing team from our community service partners at Finca Osa Verde and Osa Conservation.
Our relationship with Hogar de Vida – our neighboring children’s home in Atenas – continues to provide our students with unforgettable opportunities to interact with children of all ages who give so much back to us through their joy.
Each week, Daisy, Vianney and staff from all departments accompany volunteer students to help to feed, care for and, most importantly, play with infants, toddlers and children from Hogar.
It is impossible to say who enjoys these interactions more, the children or our students!
After three days of intensive workshops in preparation for Peru, our community braved a red-eye flight to arrive at over 11,000 feet in Cusco - the ancient capital of the Incan Empire - to get physically and mentally acclimatized for the adventures to come. Our first days included an historical tour of the city, a mountain-bike ride through the stunning landscape surrounding the Sacred Valley, and a day of community service with the Amaru people.
This indigenous village welcomed us into their homes with music and smiles, explained their way of life revolving around farming and weaving of textiles, and worked side-by-side with our students as we tilled the soil using traditional tools in preparation for planting potatoes. The Amaru then prepared a hearty lunch of quinoa, potatoes and guinea pig – a traditional delicacy in Peru.
Students and staff rose with the sun on a recent Sunday, donned boots and gloves, and got to work. Their goal was to be a part of community efforts to help improve access to water in our hometown of Atenas.
While the drinking water in Costa Rica is clean and pure, issues with infrastructure mean that some communities or individuals may have limited access. Costa Rican water laws stipulate that wells must be planted with native tree species to help with water retention, which is where our students came in, participating in a tree-planting drive.
By the end of a day of hard work, students and staff had planted over 3,000 native trees -- a huge contribution to the water access efforts!
On the first Integrated Aventura of a career at NSA, students developed their work ethic and gave back with noticeable enthusiasm while weeding rows of lemongrass, cabbage, lettuce, and pineapple; creating organic fertilizer using discarded mangoes, and making a natural mulch using mango tree leaves at the permaculture-based organic farm Osa Verde.
Each night, students and staff engaged in presentations from scientists conducting on-site conservation work. On the fourth day, students released over a hundred freshly hatched baby Olive Ridley turtles into a stormy sea!
A key part of NSA’s mission to nurture students toward becoming more relationship-based, goal-driven, resourceful global citizens is the idea of giving back to people and communities. During their stays, our students engage in countless opportunities to give back, from mentoring new students to volunteering at Hogar de Vida.
Our students work side-by-side with the Osa Conservation preserving turtle habitats, beautify local schools, and teach free English lessons in town. And something seems to stick, because our school is lucky enough to have graduates continually expressing that they want to give back by becoming interns, contributing to a program that once guided them.
Read for yourselves from a recent letter written by a 2014 graduate:
I was checking out the NSA website a second ago and felt compelled to email. Partly to thank you and also update you on my life.
I am in my second semester of my sophomore year at UNCW. I am on track to be a Psych Major/Spanish Double and or Minor (depending on the next few semesters). I work in the summers as a surf instructor and the rest of the year as a Manny (male nanny) for a family with a 9 year old boy and a 13 year old boy. I know GPA does not indicate everything but I have a steady 3.0. In July I will study abroad in Port Elizabeth South Africa for the semester.
How is New Summit Academy? Has the profile of students been changing at all? Mike W. and I keep in touch a good deal and he spoke very fondly of his time at NSA, especially working with you. I hope to come back at some point and work with NSA. It says something about the program that some students are compelled to come back and work with the students.
I am very thankful for my experience at NSA. It was an ineffable experience at certain points but my overall feelings remain positive and grateful. Choosing to take a year off was a very hard decision but a pivotal decision that I hold to my identity/sense of self. I always enjoyed talking travel with you and all you encouraged me to do.
I know you are very busy but I thought that I would extend this to you.
Community Service marks the first of NSA's Integrated Aventuras, and with more than half of the student body participating in this initial adventure, this group was amazingly cohesive. Students showed great initiative and cooperation on both an individual and group basis during their week on the Osa Peninsula, where service was aimed at monitoring endangered sea turtle nesting sites and local reforestation efforts.
According to Aventura staff, the guys were consistently engaged in academic lessons, resulting in dynamic conversations.
Aventura highlights included:
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