Our History in the Making


At Kalu Yala, student-interns and young professionals are given the opportunity to apply their passions in the real world. They work as part of our first civic institution, the research and development team. Team members utilize their studies in the search for best practices in sustainability and quality living. Unlike other education programs, we insist on exploration.

Sustainable Agriculture
Business and Entrepreneurship
Culinary Arts
Public Education and Community Development
Public Health and Wellness
Outdoor Recreation
Design Thinking
Media Arts
Political Science
Construction Arts
Check out our policies
Esteban Gast
Esteban Gast is an educator, entrepreneur and entertainer currently working as President & Dean of the Kalu Yala Institute. Before moving to Panama, he taught creativity at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he helped co-authored two books on creativity and developed an online class. He was a founding co-Director of the iVenture accelerator, has taught in high school, and started two micro-businesses. He daydreams about how the education system should be so this is a dream job.
Angela Jones
After working as a social worker and educator for the past 6 years, Angela has discovered that one of the most effective vehicles to drive positive social progress is education. She has worked nationally and internationally with children, adolescents, and adults in community centers, summer camps, schools and a juvenile detention center. She has a masters degree in macro level social work, a professional teaching license, and a certification as an International Baccalaureate Spanish teacher.
Pulum Lee
After completing his studies of Culinary Arts in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Pulum came back to Panama and started aqcuiring experience in the culinary field through pastry making, restaurants and hotels, as well as catering. He spent the past 4 years as a professor of Culinary Arts in Universidad del Arte Ganexa in Panama City. He's also worked on movie sets in food styling, along with a heavy involvement in music and the arts.
Ryan King
Ryan is originally from Louisiana and studied tropical soil microbiology, global change, and Neotropical biology. He has written environmental and tropical conservation news for more than a decade and worked as secondary school teacher, naturalist guide, and university adjunct instructor.
Jon Trimarco
Jon holds a Bachelor’s in Conservation Biology and a Master’s in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources. His style of agriculture reflect his experiences as a naturalist, social scientist, educator and community development practitioner. As a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana, West Africa, he assisted his community in developing aquaculture, small animal, agroforestry, mushroom and vegetable farming enterprises. Jon’s research, among indigenous communities in East Africa, has involved the hybridization of scientific and traditional ecological knowledge systems towards the creation and promotion of ‘novel’ regenerative agricultural practices.
David Turner
Media Arts
Zouheir Al Ghreiwati
Zouheir hails from Damascus, Syria. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Economic Development and Sustainability. Upon graduation he joined a tech start-up and established its business foundation effectively securing over $500K in seed funding. Afterwards he transitioned to Ernst & Young’s advisory division where he worked on a diverse range of projects including developing a global deployment plan for a tech start-up, Enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation for a global advertising corporation, and the launch of an inter-company innovation program.
Rachael Maysels
After receiving a degree in Environmental Studies at U.C. Santa Barbara, Rachael has spent the past five years exploring food systems around the world. From studying soils in New Zealand to running a food recovery program at a non-profit in L.A. to working alongside indigenous farmers in the Himalaya, she's committed to food sovereignty and regenerative agriculture. Her focus is empowerment through education and combining the realms of traditional knowledge and modern science.
Ramon Jaen
Carter Clark
Matt Stice
Ericka Quiroz
Eileen Walz
Head of Academics
Eileen has made it a goal to explore education from as many angles as possible. She has experience teaching unconventional classes on design thinking, international development, and team dynamics at the University of Illinois, a charter high school, and a variety of hands-on programs including Kalu Yala. She believes meaningful education can happen anytime, anywhere as long as we teach people how to learn through experience.
Clay Springmeyer
Outdoor Recreation & Ecotourism
After growing up in Montana, Clay had a passion for the outdoors even as a child. He fondly remembers learning to cast a fly fishing rod with his father along pristine Montana rivers on family camping trips. Clay built his first trail in his hometown for his Eagle Scout service project and has maintained his passion for conservation ever since. While pursuing a degree in Wilderness Studies at the University of Montana, Clay explored the mountains and rivers of Canada, Montana, and the American southwest. He feels lucky to have pursued his passions while working as a professional backpacking and whitewater rafting guide in Glacier National Park, a counselor at an outdoor based summer camp for homeless children in Missoula, Montana, a skiing instructor, a backcountry chef for a premier fly fishing company, and as a Wilderness First Aid Instructor.
Ian Bates
Design Thinking
Ian believes in the transformational power of experiential education, and the critical importance of tackling sustainability at the community level. Ian brings many years experience in teaching K-12 STEM programs as well as 7 years teaching Environmental Design at University of Colorado. He has a Master's in Urban and Regional Planning, and is a 15 year veteran Burning Man participant and participatory art builder.
  • What is the meal plan like?
  • Can I get credit for this in school?
  • What airport do I fly into?
  • Do you have to be an undergraduate student?
  • Where does our research go after we leave the program?
  • Where does my tuition go?
  • Does tuition cover the cost of my flight?
  • How can I send mail to my student in Panama?
  • Can I use this program as a vessel for my own project?
  • Can I get another job while being a student in Panama?
  • Do I have to pick a first-choice program when applying?
  • What is there to do in San Miguel?
  • Will I be able to stay at all three venues?
  • Can I talk to someone before completing my application
  • When will the town of Kalu Yala be built?
  • Can I change the program dates?
  • Do you offer scholarships?
  • What and where is San Miguel?

Those located in San Miguel and Panama City are provided lunch and dinner during the week, except dinner on Fridays. Due to the nature of their work, Kalu Yala-based programs receive 14 meals per week, with meal schedule varying around time spent in the field. Meals are not provided on weekends/off days. Our chefs provide filling meals that are delicious and healthy, using what is locally available. Vegetarian options are always available; several of our staff members are vegetarian, so you will be in good company!