Photo Credit: 
A. Cruz

The Stanford Environmental Leadership and Language Program was developed following four years of INOGO community consultation and research. The INOGO team listened to the concerns and hopes of community members, teachers, school administrators, parents, local ecolodge businesses, and other local stakeholders. SELAL was designed to directly address concerns expressed to INOGO by the local community about the lack of leadership and English language skills needed for gainful employment particularly in the ecotourism industry, the economic motor of the region. The program is a collaboration between the public and private sectors, bringing together the youth of the community with a diversity of local leaders and business people. 

SELAL’s mission is:

I) To enable youth in Osa and Golfito to better access to employment within the local "green" economy.

II) To enact place-based environmental awareness and action through principles of biodiversity and conservation, rural eco-tourism and community sustainable development, and connection and interaction with local environmental leaders.

SELAL takes place for two intensive weeks during vacation periods in January and July. Students participate in workshops, field trips, and presentations focused on leadership skills, environment and biodiversity conservation, ecotourism, and English. They also participate in activities during the school year. 

The first SELAL program was implemented in January 2015 in the Colegio Técnico Profesional in Puerto Jiménez. Since its inception, we have implemented SELAL 8 times in Puerto Jiménez, in both January and July. The program expanded to the Liceo la Uvita in July 2017, where we have implemented the program 5 times. Over 200 students have graduated from SELAL. In both locations students also participate in program activities during the school year. With Stanford engaged to monitor the impact of SELAL, the program demonstrated an improvement in students’ knowledge of the local environment and conservation, improved leadership skills, stronger social networks, as well as confidence in speaking English. 

As of July 2019, SELAL is transferring programming to our partner the SOMOS Foundation a local Costa Rican non-profit. Over the next three years Stanford and SOMOS will share financial responsibility of SELAL. By 2022, we expect that the programs will be financially self-sustaining, with support coming completely from local resources.