Interviewing Hazel Guindon was never meant to be a normal experience – especially when she’s 10 feet up a ladder. While completing a wall-to-wall nature mural for a local non-profit (CIEE), Hazel chats non-stop (her only speed!) about how her education at Monteverde Friends School has shaped her life.

“Enrolling me at the Friends School was one of the best things my parents have ever done for me,” Hazel enthuses, then lists four main reasons:

  1. Philosophy: “The school makes the best effort to teach conflict resolution, Peace, and how to be in Peace with nature.  You create a person who is going to be a Conservationist by teaching critical thinking more than by planting trees.”
  2. Teachers are friends: “The teachers saved my life.  It’s amazing what they can do without knowing it.  I hated math before Dennis taught it to me. Jonathan was an incredible teacher, inspiring.”
  3. Size: “The size of the school is ideal – you get individual attention.”
  4. Mix of ages: “Kids of all ages learn how to share.  Older kids learn to teach younger kids, and vice versa.”

Did Financial Assistance make a difference?

Hazel Guindon at CIEEHazel and her two brothers all received financial assistance to attend MFS.  Reflecting on the sacrifices her family made to pay their share of tuition, Hazel says, “My dad was very conscious about what he could provide me as an inheritance.  He felt that education was more important than land or money.  I am very thankful for that.”

On being a recipient of financial aid, largely provided by foreign donors, Hazel reflects,

“You learn how to value life and education.  You have to make the best of that opportunity – my success was in my hands.  I wanted the donors to know I am thankful for what they’re doing, and that I’m doing the best I can.”

Has the school changed?

As a member of the school committee at the time of this interview, Hazel shares her perspective on the school 10 years after her graduation.  “Even though many teachers and directors have changed, the system is constant; the essence is still there.  Being connected to the Quaker Meeting gives consistency; therefore the philosophy hasn’t changed much.”

Hazel mentions the new Kindergarten and Meeting House as indicators of positive growth, and says there’s room for even more growth, even if not physical: “MFS should become a prototype; we should teach other schools how we do it.”

Giving Back

After graduating in 2007, Hazel continued studying Education and received her diploma, then pursued an undergraduate degree in Art, because “If you want to be a good teacher and adapt your material, in Costa Rica you need to adapt them yourself. I chose to study art to be able to make a bigger difference as an educator.”

Monteverde Cloud Forest ReserveWith this art-education combo, Hazel has:

  • designed fun educational signage at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (see the photo of our school kids enjoying them),
  • developed a guide book with illustrations for the reserve
  • designed environmental education materials that are now in use in all the public schools in the area
  • coordinated groups to study sustainability and the environment through CIEE
  • used old satellite disks to create signs for a hotel’s permaculture project
  • collaborated with Roberto Wesson on a beautiful “dancing girls” mural on the side of a Santa Elena building
  • inspired two of our teachers to visit the Montessori school she did her practicum at, resulting in a wonderful Montessori influence in our kinder-prepa program

Hazel has just moved to Canada for six months of art exploration and dedicated time to complete other environmental projects, and promises,

“Wherever I am in the world, I owe this school my support.  Monteverde is my point of stability, it’s my home, and I will always contribute to this place.  I’ll be living elsewhere but always thinking of how to help the Friends School.  I wish to become a donor later on.”

Hazel also agreed to support the school by being featured in our annual appeal letter – you can learn more about her and the school by downloading the appeal letter here.