Posted on June 15, 2024 by Rebekah Alegria

Eleven finance majors from the Carlos Alvarez College of Business Investment Society embarked on an enriching eight-day journey to Costa Rica to uplift the community through financial education and community service.
UTSA Alvarez finance students in Costa Rica, 2024.

UTSA Alvarez finance students in Costa Rica, 2024.

The trip was led by Ron Sweet, MBA ’91, associate professor of practice in finance and advisor of the group. This year’s trip marked the 10th anniversary of Alvarez students partnering with Indigenous Community Development International (ICDI), a charity founded by Sweet to participate in this project. ICDI aims to uplift impoverished areas of Costa Rica through a multitude of initiatives including healthcare services, educational programs and microlending. 

Participating students included Arnas Budreckis, Alec Chavez-George, Sebastian Gallegos, Cody Houston, Adrian Porras, Victor Rodriguez, Juan Carlos Sanchez, Larissa Valdez, Humberto Villarreal, Luke Yunger and Laura Zuniga-Flores. First the students hosted a two-day finance training workshop for local microloan recipients. Topics covered effective data collection and the separation of business from personal finances. 

Porras shared, "The people of Costa Rica are engaged and willing to take action to better their futures and that of their families and country. The courses opened their eyes to new possibilities and the potential to achieve real progress and results." 

Following the workshop, students offered personalized financial consultations. "Being in an environment like Costa Rica changed my perspective on why we do finance. It’s not just about profit and wealth; it’s about helping people and their communities build a better future," reflected Villarreal.  

He added, "One of the biggest challenges was the language barrier, but with enough practice, and a translator, I was able to effectively explain financial terms and concepts to clients." 

The group also visited microloan recipients on their farms, observing how these small businesses managed everything from cattle farming to banana production. Chavez-George remarked, "I arrived in Costa Rica with bright eyes, but not knowing what to expect. I left with new financial advising experience, appreciation for the locals and all they have taught me and amazing memories to boot." 

During a community carnival organized by the students, Sanchez noted a local saying, Coyol quebrado, coyol comido. “This means that a person spends what they make without saving for the future, which is common to most, if not all partners we met." 

Highlighting the trip's community impact, Sweet remarked, “It's heartening to see our students apply their classroom knowledge in real-world settings and make a substantial difference in these communities.” 

The excursion also included visits to ICDI’s medical and dental clinics that serve the local and indigenous Cabecar populations, providing students with a broader perspective on sustainable business practices in healthcare. The trip concluded with a presentation by the students to the microloan recipients, expressing their awe and inspiration drawn from the week's experiences. Each recipient was gifted a UTSA T-shirt, symbolizing the lasting connection between the university and the community. 

The trip was supported by the college as well as the Carlos & Malú Alvarez International Fund.  

The Investment Society student organization provides students with the opportunity to further their industry knowledge, expand their professional network and pursue a career in high finance. 

— Rebekah Alegria