Students Spending Summer in Latin America

A group of about 100 high school and college students are leaving this week for Latin America. The trip is not about vacationing, but rather, making a difference in the poorer communities. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker sat in on part of the training.

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"And how about the first group can work on the community walking tour, the second is community mapping and the third is seasonal calendar."

Amigos Las Americas Regional Director Aamir Alavi is heading up the training. With the blank pieces of paper and markers, the volunteer students figure out how they will best learn about the Mexican community by doing a mapping exercise at home first. It's just part of the training for working in a different culture. The students will find out what their projects are once they arrive in Mexico. Alavi says the projects break down into two major categories.

"They both contain the same major components and that is working with youth. There's always an education component that usually focuses on environment and health. And then there's always some sort of community development project that is organized by the community."

Liza Higbee-Robinson from Tacoma, Washington is in Houston for her final training before leaving for Mexico on Wednesday. She's been overseas before.

"I lived with two different host families, I went to school, I went on quite a few excursions with other exchange students from all over. Pueblo was such a huge city for me."

She expects a completely different experience this time.

"That I'll be engaged in a different way with the people. That I'll be asking them what I can do for them."

Her Mom, a spanish teacher, encouraged her to take part in Amigos.

"She's always given me this kick in the direction of be bilingual, be open to other cultures, open your mind to the world."

On the other hand, Annie Kim from Atlanta had to do a little convincing.

"They were kind of against it at first because they want me to spend my summer at home, relaxing a little bit. Amigos does require some money which they didn't know if they would be able to provide. And my mom is just very protective of me. But I wanted to do it so I persuaded them."

But Kim is looking forward to an experience that she expects will change her life. Earlier this year, Amigos received a two-year $100,000 grant from Houston Endowment. Amigos is looking to add two more chapters in Houston. It's part of an overall growth plan to double the number of students traveling to Latin America and double the number of communities served. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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