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