Summer school in Palomas, Mexico: A priceless adventure in learning

La Escuela de Verano

by Bill Charland, Border Partners Board Member

Mention “summer school” to those of us of a certain age and you’re likely to get a groan. We’ll remember being shut up in classrooms filled with rows of desks and chairs, called in from vacation to study something or other we weren’t very good at.

girl loves learning at summer school

Shining eyes reveal a girl’s love of learning at summer school in Palomas.

But this summer in Palomas, an innovative escuela de verano drew some enthusiastic reviews from the students who attended and the dedicated staff who worked with them. The program was conceived by Angel Garibay, Principal of the Ford School, and it addressed the needs of selected students from each of the three elementary schools in town – kids who needed support in a certain subject, or else just an additional positive experience in education.

The three-week summer school provided that, with a curriculum ranging from reading and writing to mathematics and history, from woodworking and gardening to dance and art. Monday through Friday, there were two hours of classes followed by the grand finale: lunch.

The staff included Professor Garibay who taught math and history and his wife, Ismaela Muñoz, who taught art. Their daughter, Aby Garibay – a pre-kindergarten teacher from Mata Ortiz (three hours away) volunteered in the school office. Juana Flores and Juana Lazoya taught gardening. Marisol Guillen, a Border Partners staff member, led an energetic dance class, along with her mother, Maria. Thalia Romero offered instruction in reading and writing and her husband taught woodworking. Gricelda Loya volunteered to run the cafeteria and brought her pre-school-age daughter who was an enthusiastic participant in the dance class.

dance class

Border Partners’ Marisol Guillen leads an enthusiastic dance class at summer school in Palomas.

When photographer Tom Vaughan and I visited the school during the last week of classes, we were struck by the lively spirit that filled the school. With translating assistance from Border Partners’ Marisol Guillen, along with Ruendy Salinas who came over with her husband, Oscar Ledezma, and their infant son, I spoke with about 15 of the students. I asked about their favorite subjects and got a wide range of responses. A number of them had just participated in a dance class, and baile ranked at the top of the list. But there were other favorite subjects – reading (which one girl was practicing in both English and Spanish), matematica, painting, and planting.

summer school lunch

Summer school sudents ate a nutritious lunch each day. Border Partners channeled the funding for lunch that was provided by the Gila Friends Meeting in Silver City, New Mexico.

The summer school had the kind of extended family feeling that I always appreciate in Mexico and it seemed to be, above all, an energizing experience. With the variety of teachers and subjects available, there was something for everyone to love. Driving home, I felt a deep appreciation for Gila Friends Meeting in Silver City, New Mexico, which had donated funds through Border Partners to pay for materials and the daily lunch. But I also knew there was no way to put a price tag on the caring spirit of the staff. The escuela de verano was an adventure in education in which everyone had a share.

More images from la Escuela de Verano Photo credits: Tom Vaughan

Local school honors Border Partners

Border Partners was honored this month at the Escuela Primaria Ignacio Zaragoza’s graduation ceremony in Palomas in recognition of the support we provide the school as it educates some of the poorest people of the borderlands. Our board member Bill Charland attended and received the plaque for us. He was so struck by the experience, that he wanted to share it with you:

Palomas elementary school graduation dazzled: with color, movement…and meaning

by Bill Charland, Border Partners Board Member

Having lived in Guadalajara before moving to Silver City, New Mexico ten years ago, my wife, Phoebe, and I have developed a deep appreciation of Mexican culture. But we’d never attended anything quite like the July 4 graduation ceremonies at la Escuela Primaria Ignacio Zaragoza in Palomas, Chihuahua. When we received a kind invitation from the Principal, Eduardo Esparza Rivota, we left 4th of July fireworks and festivities behind to cross the border into a community where the big event of the day was an elementary school graduation.

The remarkable nature of the graduation ceremony that we attended on July 4 in Palomas is evident in the photos that my wife Phoebe shares with you in the slideshow accompanying this post. The presentation of certificates for graduation from the 6th grade honored not only children but also many mid-life adults. In addition to the diploma ceremony for the graduates, there were a variety of dance presentations. We were particularly impressed with the vaquero/flamenco troupe from the middle school whose performance rivaled professional quality (see their extraordinary costumes in the slide show’s final photo).

Given the struggles to achieve academically throughout Mexico and especially in poor communities such as Palomas, for many participants this event may mark their highest accomplishment in school. But it was an exciting evening filled with beauty and a sense of celebration.

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Border Partners has assisted this school throughout the past year with food supplements for their school lunch program. We are also in the process of donating twelve reconditioned computers. Another six are going to the Ford School, also in Palomas.

[Photo credits: Phoebe Lawrence]