Students to volunteer in Central America projects

As part of an international service-learning initiative, Western Carolina University students will be traveling to Costa Rica and Panama during spring break to volunteer their time while exploring the Central American landscapes and cultures.

Six students will participate in the Costa Rica project, organized by WCU’s Center for Service Learning and Base Camp Cullowhee in collaboration with Ecology Project International, a non-profit organization that promotes science education and conservation. The trip will run March 1-9.

“The goal of this trip is to integrate outdoor adventure, community service and academic credit,” said Josh Whitmore, director of Base Camp Cullowhee, which offers outdoor education and leisure opportunities to the campus community. “The trip will focus on volunteer work with endangered leatherback sea turtles. It will provide an outdoor adventure travel experience for participants to explore Costa Rica’s coasts, rainforests and rivers.”

Fifteen WCU students will participate in Project Panama from Feb. 29 to March 10 as part of a 33-member group, which includes members of the Cullowhee and Sylva Rotary clubs, Smoky Mountain Interact Club and St. David’s Episcopal Church in Cullowhee. The group will deliver school and medical supplies, donate water sterilization kits, work on school renovation projects, provide medical care and assist with a literacy project.

Before traveling to Panama, the students have been researching Panama’s history, geography, culture, and political and economic systems. They also have been practicing conversational Spanish under the guidance of Mark Couture, associate professor of Spanish.

Both trips are a part of WCU’s alternative spring break program.

For more information, contact WCU’s Center of Service Learning at (828) 227-7184 or