SUCCESS Foundation: Crossing Borders

After completing the SUCCESS for Teens life-skills program, nine Canadian students paid it forward by taking clothes, computers and the program itself to a Mexican village. “Before I went, I didn’t check the village out,” says Connor Robinson, 18, part of the Alberta team. The poverty “was eye-opening.” The Canadians would learn that the Mexican students brought their own toilet paper to school; the school had no kitchen; desks were falling  apart.

The outreach began serendipitously. Kerri Avery of Okotoks, Alberta, one of the parents involved, and her family own a house in Mexico. During a visit there, she took her family to Alta Vista, a nearby mountain village in Nayarit state. “We saw how fortunate we are,” says Kerri’s daughter, Alice, 15. “So we came home, got with our friends and started talking about what we could do for the village.” Soon the Alberta teenagers were raising money to visit Alta Vista to deliver gifts, including SUCCESS for Teens books (the basic curriculum for the program), to kids there. Studying the books, written in English, will improve bilingual skills and guide the Mexican students with its content—teaching how to set career goals and resist negative peer pressure, for instance.

In April 2012, the Canadians arrived, as did Mexico’s minister of education, who had brought the Internet to Alta Vista under a pilot project for rural communities; they also met with the Nayarit government leader. But the most emotional was time spent with the eager teenagers of Alta Vista in a cultural, educational and social exchange. “The kids got a volleyball game going,” Kerri said. “Even though we couldn’t speak Spanish, we have created a relationship—through giving—that’s important to them.”

Mexican teachers of English will use SUCCESS for Teens curriculum as their northern counterparts do—to impart values. Later the Canadians will subsidize the bus fare (Alta Vista parents will pay half if they can) for the Mexican students to travel 30 minutes down the mountain and back up daily to finish high school. (Village schools end at ninth grade.)

“The big push is to use SUCCESS for Teens” and get the kids to spread their wings, Kerri says. In bigger towns, their English and computer skills will lead to tourism jobs that raise living standards.

As the Alberta youths reflected on the initiative, they credited the SUCCESS for Teens program with making it happen. “It talks about a plan as a first step to anything,” Connor says. “That’s what we did for Mexico. We had the plan, got the computers, set everything up, flew out, and then executed it…. It went perfectly.”


Betsy Simnacher is a freelance writer who has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. She lives in the suburbs of Dallas.

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