Red, white and blue balloons flooded the Museo de Niños Tuesday as music played in celebration of 236 years of U.S. Independence and the announcement of a scholarship for young Costa Ricans to extend their science education in the States.
The U.S. Embassy raised $80,000 from local American organizations and will offer full scholarships in the name of Franklin Chang Díaz to students from the Colegios Científicos de Costa Rica to study for a year in secondary schools in the United States.
“It’s one more opportunity that is very unique. I still feel that the U.S. is the land of opportunity and I am very happy,” said Chang, the former U.S. astronaut. He expressed his pride to the students in a speech and commented that he was given the chance to study in America so he is proud to be able to present the same chance to other Costa Rican students. He holds a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.
He said he was “ honored and pleased to be part of this important program to Costa Rican students. These grants bring even more closer to both nations by providing opportunities for excellence for our youth, to experience what living in United States, are competent in the English language and at the same time benefit from a first-class educational system,” said Chang.
Ambassador Anne Andrew agreed that the former astronaut was a great choice of a name for this scholarship. “No one exemplifies the promise and opportunity of these educational exchanges better than Franklin Chang, a celebrated astronaut of NASA and founder of the company Ad Astra here in Costa Rica. Franklin came to the United States as a teenager with the dream of travel to the moon and its first step on this
trip was to study in an American college. Education, literally, led Franklin to the moon,” said Ms. Andrew.
Students at the Colegios Cientificos de Costa Rica are finishing their last two years of high school education after being selected to enter the prestigious chain of schools that emphasize the physical sciences.
“Our school is the best in the country and we try to keep this position. Most of us want to study engineering or something with science, so this scholarship is important,” said student Nathalie Campos.
The Embassy changed venues from the usual hotel celebration to the children’s museum to promote the idea of educating youth.
“We chose the museum because we wanted to tie in the theme of school and kids. Also, the museum has a portion dedicated to Franklin Chang Díaz with his biography and spacesuit,” said John Paul Martinez, a Rotary ambassador scholar
“Franklin Chang Díaz is to Costa Rica what Martin Luther King was for education. He is someone who inspires the younger generation,” he added.
The plan is for four students to travel to the United States in 2013. More details about the selection process will be given in September but basic scholarship requirements will apply such as academic achievement, community leadership and a desire to share cultural experiences.
“United States and Costa Rica share a commitment to education and the value of investing in the education of our citizens. This shared commitment to education has launched a rich history and a strong tradition of educational exchanges between our countries,” said Ms. Andrew.