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Empowering the Youth of Banderas Bay

Published Aug 2, 2007 - (Updated Dec 11, 2012)

Empowering the Youth of Banderas Bay-Main

Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Summer/Fall 2007 issue.

Today’s young people hold the future in their hands. Yet the Mexican educational system alone is not equipped to prepare them to benefit from and cope with the challenges and opportunities inherent in Vallarta, which is experiencing largescale tourism and development. So, it is with gratitude we salute those featured here, each doing what they can to give our youth the best possible shot at happy, productive lives.

Wendy Johnson

What

  • Created the Fresh Air Foundation in 2001 to help under-privileged youth discover their potential through the arts and athletics and to realize their personal strengths and goals by building confidence and teaching skills and values to live by.
  • In the first year, she sent 15 kids from low-income Vallarta families to a summer camp she ran locally.
  • Just five years later, she was sending 85 to one camp and 110 to another, plus had over a hundred in independent programs.
  • Opened the program to the private school sector in 2005, those children paying in full and offsetting the cost for poor families. “Our programs are not just fun and games, so we ask that everyone pay something, whether it be $10 pesos, or volunteer their time, because it makes them more committed to the outcome.”

Why

“I come from a service-oriented family and need to give back to the community that embraced me and my son for the past 15 years and helped raise him. We need to invest in the future.”

How to get involved

www.lideresmexico.orgairefresco@yahoo.com
044-322-141-3587 • (322) 224-0954

Antonio Berrueta

What

  • For 18 years, this medical doctor and psychologist has been developing a psychosocial support strategy to facilitate teaching leadership skills to youth around the country.
  • For the past three years, he has worked with the Fresh Air Foundation to build confidence in local kids, his Leadership Development Program the only one of its kind in Mexico.
  • Integrating the needs of students, teachers and parents, youth are taught constructive ways to assert themselves and are given a forum to promote their individuality, while achieving common goals.
  • The approach utilizes multiple disciplines, including art, culture, sports and Outward Bound-type exercises, as well as a strong academic foundation. Talent is brought to the forefront through “the psychology of support,” which leaves them better prepared to handle life’s obstacles.

Why

“Three of my university teachers showed me a vision of how things could be in this country. And if you teach 300 kids a year, as we did in 2006, in 10 years you have made a difference in the social structure.”

How to get involved

www.lideresmexico.orgairefrescopv@yahoo.com
tonyberrueta@lideresmexico.org
(322) 293-3157 • 044-322-289-9106

Nicole Swedlow

What

  • Created Entreamigos in 2005 to improve educational opportunities for children in San Francisco (San Pancho), Nayarit, where she lives and is raising her family.
  • The long-term vision is to help her community develop in such a way that it becomes a regional resource for education, art and culture, Entreamigos being about the local Mexican and foreign communities working together and sharing skills to make San Pancho the best it can be.
  • First created a physical space from which to work, which includes a library and computer center.
  • Current and upcoming projects including after-school tutoring, afternoon art classes, youth workshops and six-week, full-day educational and recreational summer sessions with more than a hundred local kids participating.

Why

“I want to help build a strong San Pancho, and this is the right thing to do at a pivotal time for this growing community.”

How to get involved

www.centrosanpancho.comnrswedlow@gmail.com
(311) 258-4377 • 044-322-117-1677

Molly Fisher

What

  • Founded Casa Comunidad in 2005 to help children successfully complete their schooling and develop the necessary skills to become positive, contributing members of society.
  • Free after-school programs on school grounds provide a safe, supervised environment where kids enjoy activities, get help with their homework and learn English – a most useful skill in a tourist community.
  • Computer classes expose students to technology, the “Calidad de Vida” program promoting self-esteem and providing an outlet for physical and creative expression through sports and the arts. Parents are taught to motivate and support their children, and women are trained to make salable items from recycled materials to increase household income so their children don’t have to work.
  • Environmental education, Big Sister/Big Brother programs and more are in the works, an ambitious five-year plan clearly spelled out.

Why

“Education is the key to success for an individual, a family, a community, a nation.”

How to get involved

www.peacemexico.orgmollyinmexico@yahoo.com
(322) 138-5064 • (329) 298-2505

Encouraged by the results of one another’s efforts, relationships and projects are increasingly overlapping. Wendy, a transplanted New Yorker, and Mexican-born Antonio are partnering in bilingual camps that emphasize team work and develop initiative all over Mexico, the USA, Colombia and Honduras. And Nicole’s programs include a class taught by one of Molly’s Casa Comunidad volunteers. A recent historic first for Latinos is that the Vallarta leadership program has expanded into Spanish immersion schools in the USA. “I’m the idea person and he’s the engine,” says Wendy. “We work with kids from the richest to the poorest – and they said we couldn’t do it. But all we had to do was put them in the same T-shirt!” Soon, they will also partner in international student exchange programs.


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