A Westwind Community School
Galapagos International Academy is an important part of the EcoGalapagos Foundation Inc., born out of a desire to help students receive high school credit for volunteering in the Galapagos Islands (known as Service Learning credit). For many years we have seen literally hundreds of students doing volunteer work in order to be able to list it on their college applications - let's face it, top tier colleges and universities are looking for students that set themselves apart from the others by giving back to communities in the form of volunteer work, and international volunteer experience is the frosting on this cake. The sad thing is that most of these students only receive a certificate from the organization they assist, and, even worse, never get to see a lot of the wildlife that Galapagos is famous for hosting.
In 2013, we decided to offer students a chance to spend a little more time volunteering, while at the same time receiving a high school transcript from an accredited high school for their efforts (and yes, a certificate, too!). We searched for a school to partner with, and Westwind Community Schools, parent of Westwood Preparatory Academy, accepted the challenge to partner with us. Westwind is no stranger to Galapagos. In the 2008-09 school year they hosted a Galapagos exchange student and allowed him to complete his senior year and graduate from Westwind. He is now on our staff heading up the volunteer work in Galapagos! And while we were at it, we decided to offer an academic course in Field Ecology at the same time, so now high school students can pick up a transcript from Westwind and receive credit, and a grade, in International Volunteering and Field Ecology.
Finally, after watching the volunteers being dropped off in town and "on their own" to find things to do on weekends, we found that we could give them some very exciting things to do in Galapagos (like a zip line through the Canopy in the highlands) and also take them on a trip to several other islands and major visitor sites at the end of their course, all for the same price that the others were asking without all of these additional excursions. How can we offer that? We have no huge advertising budget, no corporation headquarters with other employees and overhead, and we use local Galapagos businesses for everything we do there. This not only allows us to keep our costs down, but is much more "eco-friendly" to the environment, and our dollars help the local economy of Galapagos and the people we have come to love and respect.
So I hope you will give us a chance. Please contact us with any questions you might have or give us a call, we'd love to answer your questions or chat about Galapagos!
- Tom (Director) 12-2-2013
Lava Lizard. Watch how they differ from Island to Island.
Lava field on Sierra Negra Volcano, Isabela Is..
Christmas in Galapagos is a time for friends and family to gather and celebrate the holiday together, while most festivities occur Christmas Eve. The normally bustling streets and restaurants are surprisingly quiet, with just a sprinkling of foreign visitors moving about. A wonderful meal, turkey or ham, is enjoyed by all, followed by presents being opened. As midnight nears, more and more young people are seen, smartly dressed in their nicest clothing. Just before midnight, families make their way to the church for midnight mass, and it's standing-room only. Even a dog or two wanders in, and nobody seems to mind. After mass, adults return and have time to sit and talk before finally going to bed, while teens may visit parties around town before returning in the early hours to their beds.
Christmas day starts a little later than normal, but seems more like a normal day than a holiday. Workmen arrive to their construction sites, boats are repaired on the beach, and stores begin to open as usual along the boardwalk. In the evening the parks are teeming with youngsters, swings full, and the boardwalk bustling with new skateboards, bikes, backpacks, and electric cars and trains. Restaurants are packed and visitors wander through town to enjoy the sights and sounds of the season. The baby Jesus, missing from the nativity scene in front of the police station, is back where He belongs, and all seems well in the city.
-Tom (Director) 12-26-2013
Summer 2015 offers more volunteer experiences in the Islands. We are continuing to forge closer ties with other organizations in the islands, and this will translate into more volunteer opportunities. We hope you will contact us so that we might have the chance to put a program together for you that will make this a summer you will never forget!
-Tom (Director) 3-20-2015