Wednesday, January 21, 2009

aprendizaje es metanoía

There were a lot of uneasy looking faces walking around the upper campus yesterday. They were the faces of the nearly 200 young people who registered for the College's entrance exam. The test determines the incoming class roster for the first semester of 2009.*

En pocas palabras, I love this time of year at the UAC!  It's the time when I am most aware of the transformation that happens in our students' lives during their years of study in Carmen Pampa.  It's the time when I'm able to compare our new arrivals to their older, more self-confident counterparts and realize that I truly am a witness to the power of the College's motto:  aprendizaje es metanoía.

A close up of a mural on campus that has the words "aprendizaje es metanoía" on the pages of a book with a green, mountainous backdrop.

Aprendizaje es metanoía.  Those are the words painted on the side of the Pre-University residence hall facing the Campus Leahy courtyard.  The motto is a message and a reminder to students that learning is change. But more than a change, really, it's a fundamental--some may dare translate it as a spiritual--transformation. 

Every year, young men and women gather up their courage and arrive in Carmen Pampa with a heart full of hope and, as UAC-CP director Fr. Freddy said: "a discover the alternative opportunities that the College provides."  From near and far, they come to the UAC-CP. Most, especially those who come from small, remote communities, are very shy and timid. And without fail, I spend at least the first three months asking new students to speak more clearly, to look at me when they talk...if they talk to me at all. 

Sorted and ready for review, piles of exams sat in the main office yesterday afternoon.

But something happens mid-way through their first year: posture improves, eyes make contact, homesickness dissipates, personalities shine, and leaders begin to emerge.  And by the time they graduate, by the time they stand before a panel of professors and defend their thesis in front of a group of family, friends, and classmates, our students, the same ones who once cast their eyes to the ground, are proud, confident, well-spoken adults.

Truthfully, it's one of the primary reasons I attend thesis defenses--to be reminded that despite all the hardships, disappointments, and seemingly impossible challenges that are faced every day at a College dedicated to serving the poor, I am here to somehow be a part of the extraordinary change-the metanoía-that happens at the UAC-CP.

Not to be misunderstood, not all of our students undergo a profound transformation.  But it happens enough and quite significantly, I think.  That is why I am here.

It is also why, yesterday, I couldn't help but consciously look around at a classroom full of nervous test takers and consider how much their young lives will change in the coming years. And on behalf of all their worries and insecurities, I felt for them a grand sense of confidence that, like the UAC-CP pioneers who came before them, they too will have the opportunity to learn, to grow, to experience metanoía.

*See comment section.

1 comment:

sarah mechtenberg said...

Students who do well on the test are allowed to enter directly into one of the five major areas of study at the UAC-CP: Public Health Nursing, Agronomy (Sustainable Agriculture), Veterinary Science & Animal Husbandry, Education, and Ecotourism.

The students who do not do well on the test are selected for the year-long Pre-University program according to the order in which they registered to take the test (some come as early as September and October). The Pre-University, which provides review of core subjects like math, science, and language, has the capacity for approximately 70-80 students.