If you see junior mechanical engineering major Ante Kovacevic, you should ask him how his Winter Break was, and you should prepare to be jealous. Tan, invigorated, and inspired, he’ll probably tell you he had the best experience of his life.

Abandoning the chilly Chicago temperatures, Kovacevic spent twelve days in the Costa Rican tropics. Along with eighteen other undergraduates, he participated in The GREEN Program, which he discovered through UIC’s Engineering Career Center. It was a dream come true for a renewable energy enthusiast with an adventurous spirit, like him. GREEN participants journey to Costa Rica to explore renewable energy initiatives through a combination of classroom sessions, hands-on field trips, and community service.

Kovacevic visited hydro plants, wind farms, geothermal plants, and a steam-operated sugar cane farm. He learned first-hand about all aspects of each facility, from its equipment to its business strategy. In his free time, he salsa danced, went zip-lining, and hiked through the humid jungle despite his lack of appropriate footwear.

When describing the program’s community service component, Kovacevic’s enthusiasm overflows. He and his peers installed rainwater catchers that would help local families perform necessary everyday procedures – like flushing toilets and washing clothes – despite their limited access to city water supplies. Proficient in Spanish, he embraced the opportunity to connect personally with the families, noting that “You get to meet the family, the neighbors, and the kids that you are helping out…once you help out one family you want to help out more and more.”

Kovacevic returned to Chicago with a taste for activism. His first task is creating a plan that outlines ways for elementary schools, beginning with his own primary school, to incorporate education about renewable energy and green-living into their curriculums. Eager to return to Costa Rica, he hopes to serve as a GREEN program leader this summer – and this time he’ll bring his hiking boots.


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