Compared to global study abroad average of 5%.
So Why Is There Negative Stuff On the Internet?
Until March, 2017, no one had ever heard anything different than those facts.
Then VICE came to Kalu Yala and filmed a docu-series called “Jungletown.” The show was heavily edited and is almost entirely false.
The $3 billion company told us our environmental mission was just what they wanted to support. They filmed 1,400 hours of footage. They encouraged students to be angry instead of working things out. They needed a villain, so they edited our founder to come off as a rich jerk. And they cut all that footage down to 9 hours of television.
Instead of a documentary we got a reality show, which portrayed a melodrama that Kalu Yala never underwent before, or after, the film crew's presence (that’s over 7 years and 23 semesters).
The show sparked a lot of online controversy, particularly on Reddit, which is infamous as a breeding ground for trolls... only in this case those trolls are helping a huge company whose only goal is to sell more clickbait destroy a good small business trying to make the world a better place.
You may have come across some of the following claims while researching Kalu Yala. However, you may notice that almost none of them came from actual student alumni, current or former staff.
So, here are the facts:
The Claims VS. The Facts
Claim: Jimmy Stice, the founder of Kalu Yala, is rich.
Fact: Jimmy Stice has spent 10 years of his life fighting to build a more socially and environmentally responsible world while driving a used truck and splitting his time between a tent in the jungle or a simple 1-bedroom apartment in Panama City on a $60,000 annual salary.
Claim: Kalu Yala makes a lot of money.
Fact: While we are a company whose mission includes proving that doing good is good for business, Kalu Yala has never made a profit from the study abroad program. Student tuitions have always been subsidized by socially and environmentally concerned investors. However, because of the show, reality tv producers and people at a $3 billion dollar corporate empire made 6 figure salaries.
The following chart shows a breakdown of Kalu Yala tuition as of Summer 2017. The "staff" portion is made up of mostly instructors, admissions teams, and local service providers, with very little going to leadership.
Claim: Lots of students drop out of Kalu Yala.
Fact: Several students left Kalu Yala during the one semester in Fall 2017 when a reality TV crew was present and 5-10 crew members were filming at all times.
When there isn’t a reality TV crew, Kalu Yala’s drop rate is 2.5%, or half the study abroad average of 5%. This average has been maintained over 7 years and 21 semesters, excluding the one in which TV cameras were present– during which the number shot to 8.5%.
Claim: Students pay to work for Kalu Yala.
Fact: Students perform independent studies and projects that they are completely in charge of and pay half the price of comparable study abroad programs.
Claim: Kalu Yala is not sustainable.
Fact: We track 11 environmental metrics and produce 8% the carbon footprint per capita of people living in traditional cities, including our flights. Click here to view our 2017 Carbon Footprint Report.
Claim: Kalu Yala students are rich, white, entitled millennials
Kalu Yala students come from a variety of countries, states, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Few of our students would refer to themselves as rich, and many pay their own way–whether fully or partially– through Kalu Yala via their own savings, scholarships, or grants. Most importantly, our students continue to prove themselves as some of the most ambitious, intellectual, compassionate, and responsible "millennials" you're likely to meet. We invite you to read through our blog, watch some of the many student-created videos online, or come down for yourselves and make your own decision.
Claim: Kalu Yala is just modern neo-colonialism.
Kalu Yala is nothing like colonialism. The people who sold us our land had equal resources to the people buying it. Kalu Yala has continuously put resources into the local community and never taken any out. If you are worried about neo-colonialism, we recommend you consult a dictionary, a history book... or just talk to our neighbors.
“This experience is far superior to a typical study abroad because it allows the individual to control their own education. I gained unbelievable skills crucial for my development in business and was able to network with great people. Overall, this experience is enriching because of the people, the places, and the work we were doing in sustainability. I believe it is more rewarding than the typical study abroad in Europe.”
Business & Entrepreneurship Student
The best thing that Kalu Yala has done for me is giving me the time and space to be around people and ideas that have never made it into my life before. I have never been to a place that empowers young people like Kalu Yala. I'm so inspired everyday to see what all the young people coming through can do when you simply show them that you believe in their ideas and that they have your support. The ripple effect of this and what is happening here is radical and revolutionary. This is a place where people really try to embody the change that they want to see in the world.
Public Health and Wellness Student
What Parents Say
Are you a parent? Check out our Parents Guide to Kalu Yala.
"My daughter’s time at Kalu Yala introduced her to the knowledge, contacts, and confidence she needed to start a business in Panama. Though she left Kalu Yala after her semester, both the institute and Jimmy continued to be a resource for her, and have treated her as family. As a parent, it’s comforting to know my daughter has a growing community of passionate and ambitious people around the world she can rely on."
-Jeanie Stankovitch | Gainesville, Florida
"John having to create a project from scratch and follow it through to completion had the impact of teaching him what the real world was like while giving him the support of a school."
-Lee Cook | Atlanta, Georgia
"Mary Ann is now living her dream of working in sales in the Napa Valley where she gets to be part of the agriculture business using her natural networking skills."
-Dot Turrentine | Elkin, North Carolina
Take a Peek Inside Our World...
Kalu Yala Students Respond to Jungletown
Clark Thompson | Kalu Yala Summer 2017 Student
Building a New World in the Panamanian Jungle
What Took You So Long?
Inside the Kalu Yala Institute
Kalu Yala Staff
Have questions about Kalu Yala?
We are more than happy to chat about anything that might be on your mind. Reach out to our student and alumni-run team at firstname.lastname@example.org.