Robinson Scholar learns life experience in Costa Rica

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Robinson Scholar learns life experience in Costa Rica
Robinson Scholar, Angelina Simmons, experiences the jungle of Costa Rica on a service-learning trip, where she learned about horticulture, permaculture, biodiversity, sustainability, and other aspects of environmentalism. (Photo provided by Amber Carey)

By Sarah Richards

Angelina ate termites and loved it.

They were in the National Park, where they found a tree covered with them. She grabbed a couple of handfuls and they were “very leafy and fresh-tasting.”

They were also alive.

Being a Robinson Scholar isn’t just an honor, but an experience for Angelina Simmons, general studies major. Simmons had a near death experience underwater in Costa Rica, while on a service-learning trip that was made affordable through the Robinson program.

Though one must have a 3.5 GPA to be inducted as a Robinson’s Scholar, grades aren’t the only measure of a scholar. Angelina is a candidate for a well-rounded individual, volunteering at her church, where she does a little bit of everything (from making coffee to setting up for guest speakers) and with the Humane Society. “I like to think of myself as an animal cruelty activist,” even though she will be pursuing a Criminal Justice degree. She plans on getting her certification in Underwater Crime Scene Investigation.

Before becoming a Scholar, Angelina was a member of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK). Amber Carey, who acts as the troop leader for the Scholars, reached out to her first with the question, “Do you enjoy a challenge?”

“The cultural thing was a huge deal,” she said about visiting Costa Rica, as she has family in Puerto Rico. Everyone got along which “accentuated the trip.”

Her takeaway from this progressive part of Central America was that “You learn to appreciate what you have.” She realized that “some things I need to change.”

The life of a Costa Rican is a more bucolic one, as the Scholars got to stay in the jungle. They learned how to harvest their own salad and how to compost. Environmentalism isn’t a movement there, it’s a way of life.

Simmons learned to grow herbs (parsley and bay leaves) and fruit (pineapples, strawberries, mangoes) in her backyard. The trip was a lesson on “how we need nature, but nature doesn’t need us.”

What went in was as important as what you did with it when it came out. “Pensacola State College students used the bathroom outside in a wooden snack,” where they (Eco-villagers) put sawdust on top. They could use toilet paper, but couldn’t throw it in the toilet, and had to put it in a bag and throw it in the garbage, which was “a difficult habit to break.”

There was also no plastic in the jungle. “They reuse a lot of things over there,” Simmons said, glass bottles to hold candles being one of them. “Instead of throwing things away, they come up with a creative way to use it.”

“Their outlook on life” is to not do “anything that harms the ecosystem and the natural balance.”

Simmons and another student got trapped in a rip current when they decided to go swimming. When her companion started to panic, she also started to panic. “We were being hammered over and over by the waves.”

One of their trip companions, Grant, a professor at a college in Texas, pulled them from the water, saving their lives. “We were on edge the rest of the trip.”

Simmons is transferring to Florida State University (FSU) to double major in Psychology and Law Enforcement Intelligence. She’d love to work for the FBI as a criminal profiler and even eventually do something to combat sex trafficking.

“I want to be able to make a difference in the world.”

That is something anyone, regardless of GPA, can do.

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