Led by President Angelica Malone ’23 and Vice President Olivia Console ’23, Albright’s Alternative Spring Break student organization travelled to Costa Rica to take part in a service project with faculty mentors.
The idea for the project started a year earlier when Malone and art professor Kristen T. Woodward were in Costa Rica last year, taking part in Stephen Mech‘s faculty-led study abroad ecology course. Returning to campus, Malone and Woodward started planning immediately, partnering with faculty members Mike Miller on mural design and fashion design professor MeeAe Oh-Ranck on fundraising.
In addition to Malone and Console, students making the trip to Costa Rica included Brandom Hernandez-Ruiz ’23, Katie Ayala Hernandez ’24, Anthony Ortiz-Santana ’25 and Zachary Malmstrom ’23. The entire group installed murals for two local elementary schools in the Limon Province as part of the Camaquiri Conservation Initiative, which aims to protect and enhance biological resources and encourage conservation of the rainforest through education.
After painting, the students explored Costa Rica and met with Costa Rica’s indigenous Maleku tribe, learning about traditional herbal medicine, artistic practices and culture.
But long before Albrightians packed their paintbrushes and boarded flights, a large portion of the mural work was created on campus, in part by nearby Reading School District middle school students.
Reading School District fifth graders — who are also members of Albright’s Total Experience Learning Academy — met virtually with students in Costa Rica’s Limon province, learning about each other’s cultures and sharing their mutual interest in art. And they joined others in the Public Art Studio at TExpL, adding color to mural pieces they knew would later be installed more than 2,000 miles away.
“Studies have shown that children learn best in bright, colorful and visually appealing environments, making this service project a great enhancement to their quality of education,” said Malone.
The day the group painted with the children in Costa Rica also happened to be Olivia’s birthday — prompting the kids to sing “Happy Birthday” to her in English.
“I think that day was particularly impactful for me just because it was such a wonderful example of cross-culture relationships and learning, something that really does mutually benefit both parties,” said Malone.