L.A. Parker: The kind­ness of strangers is alive and well

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - FRONT PAGE - L.A. Parker Colum­nist L.A. Parker is a Tren­to­nian colum­nist. Find him on Twitter @ LAParker6 or email him at [email protected]­to­nian. com.

Some strangers can be ex­traor­di­nar­ily nice and ob­ser­vant.

STEMCivics Char­ter School stu­dents dis­cov­ered that fact on Satur­day af­ter a two-hour visit to ther­mal springs lo­cated within the Rincón de la Vieja Na­tional Park, a 34-000 acre ge­o­graphic won­der lo­cated 15.5 miles north­east of the city of Liberia.

Our group met Sharon and Jim Valvevold shortly af­ter a zip line ex­cur­sion and be­fore we climbed aboard horses for a ride through rocky ter­rain.

We were near the horse pad­dock en­joy­ing the aroma of equine ex­cre­tions when an in­tro­duc­tion oc­curred. The Valvevolds vis­ited from Cul­bert­son, MT, a farm­ing town lo­cated in the up­per east cor­ner of the state, “al­most in North Dakota,” Jim Valvevord noted.

We struck up a dis­cus­sion about U.S. is­sues and agreed on many top­ics, in­clud­ing that Wash­ing­ton, DC politi­cians who cre­ated wel­fare were near-sighted nitwits.

The Valvevords, farm­ers, had de­parted Dodge as winter tem­per­a­tures reached 45 de­grees

— that would be be­low zero — for a 15-day visit to Costa Rica.

That’s about a 135-de­gree tem­per­a­ture change as Costa Rica swel­tered mid-90s.

“Fif­teen days,” wowed Z’Emani Dixon, a STEMCivics Char­ter School ju­nior. “Y’all liv­ing like that. I hope when I get old I can go on long va­ca­tions.”

Sharon Valvevord , a re­tired teacher of Na­tive Amer­i­can chil­dren, had her gi­nor­mous op­por­tu­nity

— and she showed no hes­i­ta­tion.

“And you can,” she said “If you’re will­ing to work hard you can have va­ca­tions like this and more. (Jim Valvevord smiled and nod­ded).

A short two-worded in­quiry served as the Valvevords huge fin­ish, more gi­nor­mous than the moun­tains that dot Costa Ri­can land­scapes.

“Are you?,” Sharon asked.

Pretty slick. Sharon Valvevord had Dixon boxed in and the teen smiled be­fore an­swer­ing af­fir­ma­tively.

The Valvevords ex­pressed sup­port for a STEMCivics group be­ing chap­er­oned by school founder, Leigh By­ron, and 2018 graduate, Ajia Mack­ins.

Un­til Satur­day’s ex­cur­sion, Melonie Chaves, Julio Grul­lon and Alexis Perez were the most ac­tive, en­joy­ing ev­ery as­pect of this Feb. 5-13 trip to Santa Cruz.

Stephen Peprah from Ghana had in­dulged all ac­tiv­i­ties ex­cept wa­ter events while Dixon, Shanya McDon­ald and A’shanti Knox listed as hes­i­tant.

That all changed Satur­day as op­por­tu­ni­ties for a zip line ex­pe­ri­ence, horse­back rides, tubes on the Ne­gron River and a hot springs visit loos­ened tight lips and eased ten­sions.

The STEMChar­ter stu­dents ben­e­fited also from Maria An­ton (Span­ish) Ta­mara Araya (Physics) and Bron­agh Byrne (English) of Eu­nice Sato Acad­emy of Math & Sci­ence a pub­lic, mag­net school lo­cated in Long Beach, CA.

The three teach­ers com­pleted an ex­plo­ration mis­sion as they ac­com­pa­nied STEMCivics stu­dents for an en­tire day of ac­tiv­i­ties.

The Long Beach group plan a stu­dent vol­un­teer/ cul­tural visit in June.

Out­stand­ing teach­ers teach in tour vans, on zip lines, atop horses and on wa­ter tubes.

An­ton (Span­ish) Araya (Physics) and Byrne (English) coached and coaxed STEMCivics stu­dents through­out the day.

The Sato “in­vaders” were won­der­ful ad­di­tions, first con­sid­ered in­ter­lop­ers that mor­phed into won­der­ful sup­port­ers.

By­ron con­tin­ued his char­ter school cam­paign with in­tro­duc­tion of his stu­dents as “the best kids ever.”

By­ron pho­tographed his crew as they com­pleted their tube run down the Ne­gron River.

The Valvevords landed one last ac­cu­rate ob­ser­va­tion.

“That guy (By­ron) looks like he’s hav­ing more fun than his stu­dents,” the Valvevords noted.

STEMCivics stu­dents en­joyed kayak­ing, snor­kel­ing and surf­ing in Sa­mara yes­ter­day as they com­plete these last sev­eral days on this Squads

Abroad mis­sion. Back to work on Mon­day at Buho Okhy El­e­men­tary School in Santa Cruz.


(L-R Long Beach, CA teach­ers Ta­mara Araya, Bron­agh Byrne and Maria An­ton of­fered in­spi­ra­tional sup­port to STEMCivics Char­ter School of Ewing stu­dents in Costa Rica.

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