The Ceiba Story: Where It Began

story

The Ceiba is…

…the national tree of Guatemala.

…the Tree of Life in Mayan culture. The Ceiba represents Yaaxché, the connection of all the cycles of life, from its deep roots in the earth to its expansive canopy reaching far up into the sky.

…a tree whose trunk is covered in thick thorns for protection when it is young but those thorns fall away and the tree becomes smooth as it grows and becomes even stronger with experience and age.
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Our Ceiba story begins with a true and deep curiosity for the people, places, and things that give our world such diverse and interesting character. As an organization, it represents the fantastic learning potential that comes from international experience and real communication with all kinds of folks that make up our global community. Every bit as social as it is intellectual, a Ceiba experience offers participants – students, partner organization staff, community members – the opportunity to develop themselves from within while finding a confident place in the world around them.

Ceiba started in Guatemala with the initial spark of an idea. Scott, Ceiba’s Founder, thought about how his own fortunate travels around the world have influenced who he has become. Scott’s own international experience began in earnest with his high school Grade 11 year spent as an exchange student in Melbourne, Australia. This single transformative experience at once made the world seem much smaller and much bigger. Following a great desire to learn, Scott spent five additional years in Australia, the Czech Republic for close to three, Honduras, and now Guatemala. Interspersed were different locations throughout the US and travels all around the globe. To see, listen to, and feel the richness of culture and differing approaches to life are powerful motivators of personal and social development and Scott has been fortunate to continue the journey that has brought him to Antigua. Ceiba looks to bring that opportunity to students also looking for that very spark of exploration and discovery.

In addition to the impact of his own travels, two professional experiences in particular have led directly to Ceiba’s existence: managing an international high school exchange organization in Oregon with Kamillia Hoban, Ceiba’s US Operations Director, and also designing, implementing, and directing the Community Service Learning Program at Antigua International School in Guatemala. Both opportunities spoke to Scott’s great enthusiasm for cross-cultural relationships and community development. Through the Oregon exchange organization, Scott learned the logistics and processes of running such a program and then, with the Community Service Program, Scott applied the theories of reflective practice from his Master of Education course at University of Melbourne, Australia. In addition, Scott has incorporated his experience as an international curriculum consultant, academic advisor, and classroom teacher, all of which have established Ceiba as a dynamic, student-focused endeavor.

Scott approached Kamillia to be Ceiba’s US Director based on her passion for inter-cultural and experiential learning, mastery of logistical thinking, their working relationship from Oregon, and her subsequent experience as Executive Director of a non-profit environmental conservation corps in Arizona focused on youth development and service learning. Similarly to Scott, Kamillia was greatly influenced by a summer exchange program in France at the age of 15, followed by a year-long study abroad program in Paris during college, and extensive international travels. To round out the central team, Scott asked Carol Loaiza, a Guatemalan business owner and MBA graduate fluent in English with an excellent understanding of Guatemalan business practices, to be Comptroller and Guatemala Human Resources Director. Together, Scott, Kamillia, and Carol represent strong leadership, caring customer service, insightful thinking, and superior relationship-building skills that put Ceiba at a great advantage for sustainable success.