Dr. Celeste Gaia…Key Friend!

Dr. Celeste Gaia, Director of International Education at Emory & Henry College since 2007, is Emory & Henry College’s master-mind behind the now popular “Pathway Project”.

Celeste Gaia

Dr. Celeste Gaia

She received her Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Tennessee and her academic work and body of professional publications are substantial. She is highly respected among her peers, colleagues, students and others within the academic community.

As the Director of International Education and a strong advocate for global citizenship education and cultural exchange, she is the college’s strongest advocate for study abroad programs. Also, she is the campus liaison for international students.

I first met Dr. Gaia in 2012. Several of Dr. Gaia’s students had just returned from their study abroad assignments and were the dinner guest speakers at an Emory & Henry College Board affair, describing their very positive international educational experiences. I was struck by the excitement and enthusiasm the students expressed as each student shared their life-changing experience while abroad.

WOW! During that dinner presentation…the thought/vision struck me! If “we” could bring Copey students to Emory & Henry College, perhaps they also would return home to Costa Rica with life-changing experiences.

Church service

2019 Pathway Project Students

In 2013, I discussed in detail my vision with Dr. Gaia. She agreed to partner with me in an effort to develop such an opporunity for the Copey students.

Necessary authorizations/permissions, room and board, course tuition, hosts, local travel, and other logistical arrangements where needed to host Copey students and chaperones on the E&H campus. Dr. Gaia spearheaded this effort requiring much dedicated time and attention.

My challenges were a little different. I had to help Angela, the Copey Learning Center Director, sell the idea to the Copey community. Culturally, this is not typically a familiar proposition. Getting permission from parents to allow their students to travel to America to unknown destinations and be in the care of unknown “friends” would not be an easy task.

Also, there was the small issue of funds needed to support the transportation costs to America and back to Copey. I had to launch a fundraiser and we successfully raised the funds to cover the costs.

In June 2016, the first two Copey students arrived in the USA as our guests to spend approximately two weeks on campus.

Angela with students

Xavier, Casey, and director Angela

Thanks to Dr. Gaia, there is more to the story.

While establishing the “pathway” for Copey students to visit the E&H College campus, Dr. Gaia went a step further. She also established a process for E&H students to travel to Copey for a four or five week volunteer assignment. The E&H students to make the first journey were Xavier and Casey…very special students!

Today in 2019, nine Copey students plus chaperones have journeyed to the E&H College campus and seven E&H students have served as volunteers in Copey.

Kara Stewart.1

Kara

Kara Stewart, the 2018 E&H “Pathway Project” student, wrote these words on her final day in Copey before returning back to the USA: “This is so bittersweet for me because I miss my friends and family like crazy, but boy I wish you all could just come here. This place [Copey] is truly incredible.”  Today, the “Pathway Project” is a truly amazing success story.

Without question, Dr. Gaia is a real “Key Friend” of Copey! In only four years, sixteen students have had life-changing experiences similar to the Copey experience Kara describes…largely due to the willingness and determination of one “Key Friend” who saw the vision and agreed to help.

Dr. Gaia…you are a Key Friend who “makes a difference”.

 

 

 

 

 

Lou Peery…My Friend

“Though it is hard to let you go, in the Father’s hands we know, that a life-time’s not too long to live as Friends.”      By Michael W. Smith

This is now my second week in east Tennessee and southwest Virginia. I reported last week the news about my long time friend, Lucian “Lou” Peery, whose medical condition was not good. He passed away at home October 30th at the young age of 72.  2222222222

Gene Gabriel, our fraternity brother, and the third member of this close trio, joined me as we gathered by Lou’s bedside to say our collective goodbyes on Sunday October 27. We three have been as close as brothers since college and it was important we three have our time together…apparently our last time together. It was nearly magical as we spoke to Lou and knew Lou was aware that we had come to visit him. Lou understood everything perfectly. I might add that the odds of this happening as it did can only be explained by way of “divine intervention”.

My initial introduction to Lou dates back to 1965 when we were both high school seniors on opposing football teams. Because of events at this football game involving both Lou and me, it should have been a clue that one day Lou and I would again meet. I enrolled in Emory & Henry College in 1966 and in 1967, Lou arrived as a transfer student. We would have the distinction of being the first two and only Afro-American males and athletes enrolled at Emory & Henry College. We instantly became friends, teammates, roommates, and fraternity brothers. We even joined the US Air Force following our graduation from college.

After joining the military, there would always be at least 2,500 miles between us. When Lou’s military service time ended, he returned home to Tazewell, Virginia. When my service time ended, I became a resident of Anchorage, Alaska and later Washington state. The distance did not matter as the next 45 years involved phone calls and visits which sustained our relationship until the end.  Lou Peery

Yesterday, during Lou’s going-home service, Larry Blankenship, a long-time friend, spoke about Coach Lou’s tremendous impact on his community, the countless number of kids he coached, and the many lives Coach Lou touched. Over his 35 years coaching, several of Coach Lou’s players made it to the professional baseball league because of the early instruction and guidance Coach Lou provided. The size of this man inside and out earned him a status of a “giant” in his community. Larry did an outstanding job representing the community who knew and loved Lou the “Coach”.

I was also asked to speak and my message related to “friendship”. I had enjoyed a completely different connection to Lou than Larry and the community. Ours was much more personal and our distance apart demanded that we skip talking about careers and politics and many other matters. We had very little time or need to compare individual accomplishments. We had accumulated so many past memories and shared so many wild experiences, those areas were the places we would naturally default to.

I would spend 95% of the time just enjoying his company, his amazing humor, and his wonderful gift of joke telling which served to bring so much joy and laughter into the time we shared. And, even from a long distance, I knew what Larry spoke of regarding the “Coach”. I summed it up yesterday from my viewpoint in the following way:

  1. Lou lived a life of purpose. Although he spent 35 years as a high school baseball coach, he was far more than that. He was a light others would follow. He was an inspirational motivator, counselor, and had the ability to move players to be better today than yesterday….and better tomorrow than today. He led by example.
  2. Lou made a difference. He did not have the greatest tools, the greatest intellect, the best timing, and certainly Tazewell, Virginia may not have been the best location to build a successful career. But, Lou took each of these less than perfect conditions and did the miracles only those who have been ordained or called to do. It all resulted in the betterment of others. He made it all work and he made a difference.
  3. Lou lived life as a servant. In biblical terms, he served by putting others above self.  Although referred to often as a “giant” of a person in his community and he was a big man, Lou never thought he was larger or bigger than those he served each day.  The following is a local newscast regarding his service.

https://wvva.com/sport/top-sports-stories/2019/11/05/remembering-lou-peery-the-man-who-was-and-is-tazewell-baseball/

Lou being a very humble man and someone who prefered to have others stand in the bright light of  fame and success, it was difficult yesterday to play down the impact he had on his community and how important he was as my friend and brother. I hope he will forgive me for writing this post in his honor.

“Lean On The One!”

“If we don’t listen to everything that the spirit of God has to say, eventually we won’t hear anything.”     by  Mark Batterson, Pastor

“Wherever I am…I am near Friends of Copey”

This week I am on the other side of the country back in the wonderful southwest Virginia/east Tennessee area. I am here to attend my final Board of Trustees meeting at the Emory & Henry College (E&H College) and to bring to a close a very wonderful eight years. I will be saying farewell to many good friends and carrying away many positive memories. zzzEmory image 5

This does not mean E&H College will no longer be our partner. The various relationships and projects we have established with the Copey Learning Center will not cease. Not at all!. While on campus, I will be discussing the 2020 Pathway Project and will have meetings pertaining to two very special initiatives. These new special initiatives are possibly groundbreaking and exciting but it is far too early to share the details. So one door closing means another door may be opening.

“Let’s Pray!”

I am asking for prayers for my dear friend Lou Peery. As I am writing this Post, I am sitting in the Bristol Regional Hospital’s cafeteria. Upstairs on the fourth floor is my friend facing life-challenging medical issues. Plans are underway at this moment to return Lou back home where he will receive Hospice care. Lou and I have a long history as college roommates, football team members, fraternity brothers, and just close friends that began as far back as 1965. “Friends of Copey” pray for him and his family.

Some Good News!

This week’s update from the Copey Learning Center is positive. I skyped with Ana Yancy last Friday. The volunteer teachers for the 2020 year beginning March have been confirmed. I hope to get additional information on each later but I do know one is from Germany, another from the United Kingdom, and the third from Wisconsin. All this is encouraging and it includes the new Director coming on board soon. The year 2020 appears to be off to a great start.

I continue to thank the Anne G. Broady Scholarship Fund (AGBSF) early bird donors. These early donations serve to further our optimism and high expectations. If the trend continues, we may be 50% of our goal or higher with funds in hand when we officially open the campaign in early January.

Remember Brian?

Over the past few weeks, I have been exchanging emails again with Brian. RememberEmory 22  Brian? He was a 2018 Pathway Project recipient and a recipient of our AGBSF support. Brian is excited about his life and he has set highEMOry 37 educational and professional goals.

Brian represents a special type of success. Many of the older male students attending the Copey Learning Center are seriously challenged to stay in school and are challenged to consider non-traditional occupations. This explains why to date we have had only one male student participate in the Pathway Project. We keep working to change this condition.

I keep in touch with Brian because I press him to be a real effective “ambassador” and role model for other males attending the Copey Learning Center. Helping Brian to see he too can make a difference is a wonderful learning experience for him. Thanks Brian.

New Key Friends Announced!

Last week our first three new Key Friends were announced and I am trying to put the special Post together to properly introduce each one. Events leading up to my trip here to my current location overtook my time and opportunity. Stay tuned. If you want to know the names of those honored, check out last week’s Post. Thanks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compelling Vision…Relentless Implementation!

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”                                     By Peter Drucker

Key Friends Announced!

I am very happy to announce the newly named “Key Friends”: Dr. Lin ChurchDr. Celeste Gaia, and Dr. Steve and Edeltrout Hunt. These “Key Friends” have contributed significantly to the development, progress, and sustainability of the “Friends of Copey” project.

A special Post is forthcoming to highlight their background, service/support, and affiliation to “Friends of Copey”.       

“Thank You”!!! 

New Executive Director Announced!

We are another week closer to the end of the Copey Learning Center school year. Graduation is scheduled for November 29th.Good News

In 2020, a new Executive Director will take over to meet the challenges of moving us on to the next chapter of this successful project. Ines Segura Serrano, the recently named Executive Director will follow three previous Executive Directors who have contributed immeasurably to the continuation and sustainability of the Copey Learning Center. A skype session is being worked out for me to meet and welcome the new Director to the partnership with “Friends of Copey”. More information on our new Director will be forthcoming.   

Past Executive Directors!

The Copey Learning Center has been  very successful attracting qualified and competent

Angela Professor

Angela

leaders to manage the day to day operation of the center. I have worked closely with each Executive Director and together we have accomplished much over the years. Angela Ramos, next Ana Yancy, and then Andrea Serrano  have all demonstrated their skills and commitment to do the work needed to face the challenges and demands of operating an

Ana Yancy.Post

Ana Yancy

educational center in rural Costa Rica. And, much credit goes to the center’s Board of Directors’ choices in leadership. Attracting qualified and dedicated talent to take on the leadership challenges of the center is not easy. If the candidates are qualified to work at the center, then they are qualified to work anywhere in Costa Rica and beyond. 

 

Andrea.2

Andrea

The attraction for quality applicants is not the plush job possibilities or the high wages being offered. It is neither since there is little to find plush and the wages are certainly meager. I contend some of the attraction is linked to the beauty of the community, the wonderful students, and the people of Copey. And, if you want to truly learn some things about yourself, test your metal, and make a huge difference in a life…Copey Learning Center is a great place to be.  I am honored to have worked with each one. 

Thank You

 

 

 

 

“Education…Is A Passport!

” I tell students that the oportunities I had were a result of having a good educational background. Education is what allows you to stand out. ”   By  Ellen Ochoa

Spelling Bee!

The Costa Rican Spelling Bee (aka English Festival) is now underway and our Copey Learning Center students are involved. Recall,  this Spelling Beecompetition features spelling English words and includes a “conversational” competition. The Copey students have done exeptionally well in this nationally sponsored spelling competition. “Friends of Copey” has been supporting the Copey students’ involvement in the Spelling Bee since 2015.

Mariana.2

Marianna Wins in 2016

Mariana has been a Spelling Bee participant for serveral years and even made it to the National Championship level in 2016 and 2017.

She visited us last summer as one of the 2019 Pathway Project students. We were treated to her advanced English skills during her time in America and on the Emory & Henry College campus. We predict she will enjoy a great deal of

Mariana.1

Mariana at E&H College 2019

personal and professional success in the future.

Now, her sister Margarita is following in her big sister’s footsteps. Recently, Margarita placed 1st in the first round of competition. Other Copey Learning Center students also participated but I do not know the official results of their competitions.

Margarita and two other Spelling Bee participants (Ruben and Erick) joined in on the Skype call between Ana Yancy and me last week.

Margarita .2

Ruben, Erick, and Margarita

It is a real joy to be in touch with students who are eager to learn and have a strong appreciation for the opportunity to attend this English based Learning Center in rural Costa Rica.

They know this English education is not available to the vast majority of rural communities throughout the country. The more urban locations provide urban students a greater opportunity to learn English and a significant advantage in Spelling Bee contests. 

For the Copey students, the Spelling Bee helps develop pride, confidence, and serves to underscore the point: “where you are from does not dictate where you can go”.  The upper echelon of the Spelling Bee organization has come to recognize and respect the Copey Learning Center students who compete. 

We are impacting the educational and future lives of children with our support and this is just one more way we “Friends of Copey” is making a difference.  This ” impact goes far beyond the boundaries of the Copey community.

Key Friends…!

The work is underway to put the first list of supporters who will be inducted in the “Key Friends” group. Should be news on this list next week.

Angela Ramos Has A New Family Member

Angela, past Executive Director of the Copey Learning Center, recently gave birth to a baby boy. I was happy to communicate with Angela who now resides in America and to send our collective congrats from “Friends of Copey”.  Blessings to All!

Meaningful Friends Make Meaningful Days!

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”                              By Edith Wharton

WOW! The end of the month is here and as usual… I am wondering where did all the time go? Volcano PicLast week’s Post highlighting our special “Friend”, Jane Rutledge, was well received and the Post traffic was higher than usual. I am happy many “Friends” recall and appreciate Jane and her unique story.

Photo: La Fortuna with Volcano Arenal in the background.

Memorable!

Key Friends….!

While looking into Jane’s past service, I thought of others who have also been extraordinarily staunch supporters of the Copey Learning Center. First, let me remind you of the first two and the only two “Key Friends” in our five year history.

You can locate on the Menu button “Key Friends”. Have you ever looked at “Key Friends”? Both Hailey Tibbett and Joe Thomas were exceptionally

Hailey Blog Photo

Hailey Tibbett

important in the earliest days of “Friends of Copey”. Without question, Hailey and Joe’s help, support, and participation assisted me in solidifying my earlier commitment to the  “Friends of Copey” project.

Both of these “Key Friends” were in the right place at the right time to help provide the necessary fuel to move this project towards great success. I ask you to read the short write-up under “Key Friends”. 

Key Friends Updated…!

Now, the “Key Friends” section has not been updated over the past four years. The list of “friends” during the past four years has been growing and growing as some amazing things have happened to help build our reputation and list of successes.

Updating the list of “Key Friends” is greatly needed and of course this could be risky as it centers on much subjectivity on my part. And, I am not known to avoid risk! I feel compelled to extend a very “special” thanks and provide some added recognition for those “Friends” going above and beyond the “making a difference” effort.

2020 Is In Our Future!

I am always looking at how we work at supporting the Copey Learning Center. One key area for example is the way we obtain funds to support the Anne G. Broady Scholarship Fund. Each year our goal of $1,800.00 is reached with 100% donor support. These funds are earmarked to support Copey families who cannot afford to send their child to the Copey Learning Center. 2020 Scholarship Track

I am seeking alternative ways to raise a portion of the $1,800.00 using a more diverse approach. The goal is to reduce the direct donor portion by 25% or $450.00.

Developing a more diverse funding approach is a priority for 2020. If we are successful, this then will become the model for the other two fundraisers as well. I am inviting any thoughts “Friends” might have on this subject.

We know we plan to continue our support for the Copey Learning Center in 2020 but we want to develop ways to reduce the burden donors are experiencing for the funds needed.

It is still too early to talk about the scholarship support in great detail. However, we have three financial donors already making early commmitments of support in 2020. Great Start!

Much More To Come!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Your Light Under The Bushel?

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!”     By Harry Dixon Loes

While things are moving along at the Copey Learning Center, I find time to to look back at older Posts I prepared. Normally, I do not take the time to do this but when I do, I find I have some interesting reactions.

First, several Posts are hardly recognizable to me. I am not certain what the inspiration was that brought about some of the thoughts I shared. Other Posts indicate my strong appreciation for the support and encouragement many “Friends” provide. The most astounding revelations from reading past Posts pertain to those accounts of “Friends” who seem to capture the full spirit and intent of “Friends of Copey”. Although I sincerely believe all “Friends” share in the successes of our efforts, a few “Friends” have created “ripples in the pond” that have caused significant results.

This past week I came across the Post dated September 25, 2017, titled “You Cause Ripples”. The Post included the quote; “Everything we do, even the slightest thing we do, can have a ripple effect and repercussions that emanate…”

I do not expect anyone will remember this Post but you can locate it in the archives. But, I am certain some remember Jane Rutledge. As a retired educator, Jane decided to volunteer as a teacher at the Jane Rutledge 5.pngCopey Learning Center. Make no mistake, Jane is not a life spectator but a fearless life doer.

Whenever I am asked what exactly is “Friends of Copey?”, there are plenty of ways I can respond. But, there is no response as crystal clear and as complete as my five minute commentary about Jane. If you have not read any of the Posts covering September thru December 2017, I invite you to do so. Her story is unique and amazing.

And, it would be a serious mistake to think Jane’s “ripple effect” has been limited to the Copey community’s kids and adults. Her “ripple effect” has expanded to her family and hundreds of Jane’s dedicated followers who love and admire her. Jane Rutledge 3

Jane’s son John and daughter-in-law Paula took time to travel to Copey to visit Jane and the community. They witnessed first-hand the work of the Copey Learning Center. She and her family enjoyed some vacation time with her family doing some wild things in Costa Rica. Can you imagine the magical and memorable experience this must have been for them all?

Even today, Jane has continued her support and service as one of “Friends” most devoted supporters. Jane Rutledge 6.pngShe is among those hosts waiting on the “Pathway Project” students from Copey to arrive in America and show up at Emory & Henry College.

So Let The Little Light Shine!

As we enjoy knowing we have been and continue to be strong and positive supporters of the Copey Learning Center, we should not ignore or Jane Kittyoverlook the fact our sphere of influence or the range of the “ripple effects” goes far beyond the Copey community.

By now each “Friend of Copey” should know that one person can “make a difference”. So, don’t sit back and think you cannot have an impact on a need somewhere. While Jane Rutledge is both special and unique, there are other “Friends” who have caused and continue to cause “ripples”.

During Jane’s time at the Copey Learning Center, she taught her young students the song, ” This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!”

This says it all!