Four years ago, a small team of big-hearted Canadian and Americans decided they wanted to give something substantial back to the community.
So they sponsored a young neighbor, Angela, to go to high school, and thus the scholarships program called Becas For Barra was born.
In Mexico, and especially small towns like Barra de Navidad, many children cannot continue their education after graduating from middle school. In Barra, the Escuela Secundaria Técnica Francisca Chaves Cortez is the middle school. The high schools are in surrounding towns, so transportation is added to the costs of books, uniforms, lunches, registration fees, shoes, supplies and clothes needed to attend.
One of Becas’ founders, Wilf Brosseau, figured that 15,000 pesos would cover the basic costs for a year of high school for a student. Angela was the first student to be sponsored and went on to get a degree in cosmetology. She recently completed a permanent makeup certification course.
This columnist recently reached out to some of the newest young Becas recipients.
Alexis is 16 years old and lives in Barra de Navidad. “I am a very charismatic person, I always see the good side of things and I do not give up. Giving up is not an option for me, I always try to give the world a smile and be happy. I try to lead a healthy and organized life without having so much pressure on me. I like to sing, dance and pretend that I am in a movie, novel or series. What I would like to be is a doctor or accountant, but what I really ask God for and what I really want and long for with all my strength is to be a singer or an actor and tour the world to give a better life to my parents and my family.
“I like to study English because it is very important that we speak that language perfectly. I received the scholarship for having good grades and good behavior and I felt proud and super happy.
“My goal is to have a good job that allows me to enjoy my life and help my family. I am so grateful to know that someone supports me and helps me achieve my dreams.”
Alberto is 16 years old and lives in Barra de Navidad. “I like to go to the beach and spend time with my family. I would like to be a teacher to support my former high school. I would like to support the Becas por Barra program, just as they supported me so I can help children who choose to continue their studies.
“When we were summoned to receive the scholarships, I was very nervous but at the same time felt super good for having made an effort to earn this great opportunity to continue my studies.”
Giselle is 16, lives in Barra and likes reading and listening to music. “I would like to be a great surgeon. I want to study business administration and medicine because it is what interests me the most and they are the branches on which I want to base myself for a good future.
“The moment they gave me the news that I was one of the candidates for the scholarship, I could not bear the emotion and started crying. It was a special day for me. I was looking forward to being one of the selected.
“I plan to finish high school with good grades to enter a good university where I will study for a medical career, since it is what I am most passionate about to help my family.”
Brosseau, who heads Becas for Barra along with Linda Bello Ruiz and David Marsha, says: “We started Becas for Barra on the basis that we all live pretty well down here for a lot less than we do at home. I felt that we could pay back the community best by helping with the education of their children.
“I guess the biggest thing I see is the change in attitude. When we first went to the middle school and asked the kids how many wanted to continue their education, about half indicated they had no interest. When we asked the same question a couple of weeks ago, every hand in the room went up. When we first asked our recipients where they wanted to go, they told us the tourist industry or bookkeeping. The five we picked for this past year chose law, business management, architecture and forensic medicine.”
The selection committee will choose five more recipients in June, bringing the total to 15. Two have graduated and four more will graduate this year.
“What makes me happy is to see how hard they work, how much fun they have and, ultimately, how much it could change their life,” says Brosseau.