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Students in Laguna San Ignacio, Mexico, show letters and photos from their Summit Middle School amigos in Boulder.

As part of our mission to build authentic relationships, we are always exploring avenues for connecting our local community with the global communities wherein we work. In 2008, upon returning from facilitating our projects in Baja for a year, Philanthropiece Field Coordinator Jordan Bailey searched for a way to stay connected with the youth in Laguna San Ignacio. He connected with Summit Middle School Spanish teacher Stephen Goettsche and together they have developed a cultural exchange program that is now in its sixth year! Thanks to Stephen and his students for providing this recent update!

As a middle-school Spanish teacher, the opportunity for my students in Boulder, Colorado to do a pen-pal exchange with students in Baja California Sur, Mexico is one that tremendously enriches the classroom experience. Being in direct communication with Mexican students through hand written letters is the ideal way to bring the Spanish language alive, through authentic communication, and to enable students to develop a first-hand knowledge of Mexican life and culture. The anticipation of receiving the next round of letters from Mexico – Profe, ¿cuándo vamos a recibir más cartas de México? –  and the uprising of excitement when they arrive in the classroom says it all! Perhaps the most valuable outcome of this pen-pal exchange, is the way that it bridges enormous gaps, geographically, culturally and economically.

My students’ reflections give testimony to learning profound lessons about the ways in which life is both similar and immensely different in Boulder Colorado and Baja California Sur, Mexico; these are the types of lessons that help to create a new generation of compassionate global citizens. Many thanks to Philanthropiece for making this unique learning opportunity possible!

Here’s what Summit Middle School Spanish students are saying!

  • I really like being able to talk with the students in Laguna San Ignacio, and learn about their life. Since our lives are so different, both physically and culturally, I think it’s really interesting to be able to gain an insight into their lives.
  • I like having pen pals in Mexico because it enable me to connect with a person that is living under different circumstances than me, and who has a different culture than I am. It’s a lot more educational than just reading about other cultures, because there is actually a person who has experienced it behind the words I read. 
  • I think that connecting with kids in another country is an amazing way to learn about new cultures and to appreciate our own. The exchanges we have with these other kids, and our ability to see that they are just like us, in different circumstances, is really interesting. I found a friendship through a piece of paper, because I knew that somewhere on the other side there was a girl that was writing it. I loved this connection and this new found friendship and this new realization of how different people’s lives are in other places. Textbooks and the internet can spout facts about these people, but without actually talking, or writing, to them, no real connection and understanding is reached.
  • Although our pen pals live in completely different places culturally, they still enjoy the things that me and my friends do too. It’s interesting to see the similarities and differences that we have in terms of what we enjoy doing and what we don’t enjoy doing.
  • (On similarities and differences between the cultures) They don’t have access to as many things as we do. In Boulder, most of us have more money than they do and we can afford things more easily than they can. For example, I don’t think a lot of them can afford braces (the girl I was writing to couldn’t, I think) and other things like that. I think that they have to prioritize a lot more than we do; we have more money to spend on things that we need but not as much as things such as food, clean water, clothes, etc.