NMU Hosts Central American Students

Northern’s International Programs Office introduced 22 Central American high school students and four adult mentors to the university, Marquette area and U.P. winter recreation during a Jan. 28-Feb. 3 visit. The students, who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and hadn’t previously traveled beyond borders, also received lessons on leadership and entrepreneurship that they can put into practice when they return to their respective countries.

“This has been amazing; it is my American dream,” said Emmanuel Melendez, a 16-year-old from Nicaragua, on the final day of his stay. “It’s a wonderful place and snow is amazing—something in my country we never see. Most important for me was learning about leadership that will help in my future. If I have control of me, I work better with others.”

Events offered during their time in the Marquette area included tours of the Tilden and Empire Mines, outdoor leadership activities at Al Quaal in Ishpeming, snowshoeing to the Eben Ice Cave, an NMU hockey game, a visit to Marquette Senior High School and presentations by local small business leaders.

“This is important because it expands their vision of the world,” said Argel Chavarra, a mentor from El Salvador. “The students learn good attitudes and behavior that they can multiply. This program starts with a trip to the United States, but it does not end there. They will do projects at home and there is a one-year followup.”

 

Chavarra and another mentor stayed with Fred Joyal (Geography) and his wife, Ann, one of several volunteer host families. “We’ve hosted a number of international visitors over the years and enjoy learning about other countries,” Joyal said. “Much more of the world speaks Spanish than many people realize, so it’s great for people here to have these opportunities. I’m particularly proud that NMU is engaged in this and that the community has been so open and friendly.”

Rehema Clarken (Internal Programs) said the project was a joint effort with the Modern Languages and Literatures Department, which provided translators and logistical assistance.

NMU received nearly $23,000 to sponsor the Marquette portion of the Youth Ambassadors Program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State within the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is administered by the Center for Intercultural Education and Development at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. A partnership between NMU and Georgetown University brought the delegation to Marquette. The group’s trip to the United States also includes a week in Washington, D.C.

 

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Updated: February 4, 2010

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