College of Education and social sciences taking students to Mexico this Summer


This summer, the college of education and social sciences are taking West Texas A&M University students to Mexico to lead an after-school program in a rural town and learn about Mexican culture.

“I’m hoping they come away with a realistic expectation and a positive image of what central Mexico is like,’’ said assistant professor Dr. Regina Rodriguez. “Cultural competency is the fancy word for it.’’

The faculty-led program is taking eight groups studying education, psychology, sociology/social work, political science and criminal justice to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, on different dates throughout summer of 2018.

Assistant professor Dr. Elsa Diego-Medrano and Rodriguez will be accompanying the first group, studying education, who depart in the end of May. They have both been on the trip before and will be teaching the student’s classroom management and literacy.

The skills will then be put into use at a school in Las Clavellinas, a rural town close to San Miguel de Allende. The WTAMU students will essentially be running the after-school program, teaching reading, writing, science, and math. The hope is that the students pick up “hands-on skills’’ to bring with them into their future.

“We encourage students to take this opportunity because we want them to be competitive. The more experiences they have, they will be able to secure a job,’’ said Diego-Medrano.

Many of the children at the school in Las Clavellinas only speak Spanish, and for students who already know the language, this is a chance to advance their language skills. But speaking Spanish is not a requirement and the students who don’t will instead get an opportunity to learn how to deal with challenging situations in the classroom.

They will be working full days during the weekdays, beginning with an 8 a.m. breakfast and ending it with a late dinner. The students get guidance in lesson planning and preparation as well as time for reflection.

During the weekends, the group will go on field trips to places such as San Miguel de Allende, where they will visit the church, market, and traditional shops.

“It is a cultural experience, too,’’ said Diego-Medrano.

They will visit a pyramid together with an archeologist, meet artists to learn about traditional art from the area and visit hot springs.  

Rodriguez’s favorite memory from Mexico is a visit to Guanajuato, a university town built into the mountains. Rodriguez and her party had hired a mariachi band to play for them while they were having dinner when an eight-year-old with a voice ‘‘like butter’’ started singing for them. Rodriguez explained that this brought her to tears.

‘‘I felt like we were just really experiencing Mexico,’’ she said, ‘‘the way it was meant to be experienced.’’

The service learning project is an initiative across the Texas A&M system, and the hope is that eventually all the eleven universities included in the system will be able to go on the trip.

“This is an initiative to ensure that our students are better equipped at once, in the job market and two, to understand how to work with diverse students,” said Diego-Medrano.

They will be living in dorm-style rooms in the Hacienda Santa Clara Education and Research Center, owned by the Texas A&M system. The building is 30 minutes outside the city, locked and fenced to ensure that the students always feel safe.

The estimated cost of the program is $2,500 which includes meals, airfare, field trips, insurance, local transportation, and housing. The program offers a scholarship to help with the cost. The scholarship is up to $500 and depends on the student’s financial need, GPA and whether or not they have been before. The course is worth three units. To read more, visit the WTAMU website or the program’s facebook page.