By Janet Curiel |Staff Writer|
Students got the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica through the TRACKS Alternative Spring Break Program from March 26 to April 2.
The TRACKS program, which stands for travel, recreation, adventure, culture, knowledge & service, was established here at CSUSB in 2011 and embarked on its first international trip this spring.
The program is funded and provided by ASI, the Office of Community Engagement, Recreation and Wellness, and the Office of Student Engagement (OSE), with the fee for students varying from free day service trips to 500 dollars for Costa Rica.
Of over 200 applicants, 18 students were selected through a process of group interviews and submission of written applications in the fall of 2015.
Some of the highlights of the trip included volunteering at Parismina, Costa Rica to help protect and save sea turtles; cultural and recreational activities such as a zip line, canopy tour, whitewater rafting, kayaking, hiking, and visiting a self sustaining ranch to learn applicable techniques to lower our carbon footprint.
“My favorite part of the trip was being able to connect with not only the people who were a part of the trip with me but being able to interact with the people from Costa Rica,” said student Jasmin Limon who attended the TRACKS trip.
“For many students, this is their first opportunity to experience travel, and get a first hand look at the impact of social justice, and the economy built around service.” said Shannon Stratton, the Program Supervisor of the OSE.
There are several past TRACKS trip participants that have gone on to do service after participating in the program, including two that went on to join the Peace Corps.
Kamal Preet, a senior graduating in June, who attended the 2015 trip to Puerto Rico, is departing for the Peace Corps in July to Botswana, Southern Africa.
“I always had an interest in joining the Peace Corps, but the TRACKS program helped bring service back to the forefront as a priority after graduating,” said Preet.
Daisy Ramos, an alumni who attended one of the first TRACKS trips to Big Bear, is currently in Costa Rica for the Peace Corps, and met up with the group for the last three days. Ramos praised the program for its impact on students and shared her experience with the group.
“TRACKS Costa Rica was such an amazing, yet humbling experience that I am so incredibly thankful to have been able to be a part of. I believe this volunteer service trip changed us all for the better, and I am amazed at the selflessness and the compassion of our TRACKS team. We all came together and made a difference in Costa Rica, this is something I will cherish forever,” said student Desiree Nicolai, who attended the trip this year.
I myself was fortunate enough to attend the Costa Rica trip, and am extremely thankful for the personal growth I experienced through service and the friends I made on the trip, and advise those who are interested in service to apply for upcoming trips.
Due to the low cost, TRACKS Alternative Breaks are limited to 1 per student during their attendance at CSUSB.
The next TRACKS program is for Puerto Rico in 2017, which will be accepting applications in the fall. For more information you can visit www.csusbrecsports.com/outdoors/calendar_all/service