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Local Students Set Off to See the World!

Laura

JA

By Geoff Hargreaves

How can a student from San Miguel de Allende living on a mean, lean number of pesos get to visit Brazil or France for the opportunity for an international internship in these days of globalization? The answer is: When donors to Jóvenes Adelante supplement help with passport fees, travel expenses, health insurance, and more.

JA student Laura Espinosa is a contained and poised presence, as composed as a sphinx, with slam-dunk academic achievements to her name. She is studying public accounting at the University of Guanajuato. She breaks into lilting laughter when she recalls her six-week visit to Natal, a city noted for its historic buildings and the beauty of its crystalline sea on the northeastern coast of Brazil.

“I am the first member of my family to travel outside Mexico,” she tells me. “I have to admit I was nervous at first, but it was a great opportunity to experience another culture and to meet other volunteers from Colombia, Italy, England, and Slovakia. It opened my mind and, in return, I helped to open the minds of my students. At the start, I taught English and Spanish, and my students’ greatest ambition was to work as a cashier in a mall, but by the end their horizons had expanded toward professional careers.”

What impressed her most strongly? “It was fascinating to see how different people can be, and yet how alike they are,” commented Espinosa, who has seven siblings. Her father is a bricklayer and her mom is a housewife.

Karina Rioyos, a cascading fountain of energy, studies industrial relations at the University of Guanajuato on a JA scholarship. A daunting 18-hour journey took her to Luz-Saint-Saveur in the French Pyrenees, a small town of 1,000 inhabitants circled by permanently snow-capped mountains. The task of the 14 students from Turkey, Spain, Germany, and other countries, was to restore historic buildings. (They received classes first!)

For three weeks, she worked hard. In her spare time, she used her free pass to the thermal baths and roamed the novel landscape of mountains, lake, and forest. The group’s work was so well received that on the final day the entire town turned out to celebrate the success. What a glorious day that was, she recalls!

What did she gain from all this? Her vision of the world widened, she says, her self-confidence increased, and her language skills improved. “I came away feeling that we young people are citizens of the world and that it is our duty to think globally and to act locally,” said Rioyos, who is one of three siblings. Her dad works for the water company and her mom is a cook.

Exposed to other people’s realities, students return to San Miguel fully amped and more mature. Nothing beats foreign travel for extricating a student from the limbo between student to adult.

Thanks to its donors, JA grants scholarships to local Mexican honors students who otherwise could not afford to attend university and breaks the cycles of historic economic disparity. JA is living its slogan: Educating the Brightest to Light up the World! If you are interested in how only US $4 day can support a student, or if you are interested in volunteering, please contact President Robin Loving at 415 112 3413 (SMA), 925 476 8117 (US/Canada), and/or robin@robinloving.com. JA offers tax deductibility in the US, Mexico, and Canada.

 

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