Monday, January 11, 2010

new generation

It's been pretty quiet here in Carmen Pampa the past month with nearly everyone on summer vacation. But this week some fresh faces have arrived on campus--young men and women who have come to register for the 2010 academic year entrance exam.

New faces, yet-to-be-known names--each one with a unique story to tell, I'm sure.

This year the College is doing something new. All students who are registering for classes for the first time at the UAC-CP must attend a week-long orientation. It includes an overall introduction to the history and mission and vision of the College, tours of both campuses, explanations from academic department directors about the College's major areas of study, and general information about housing, classes, and the food cooperative program. They will also receive some instructional tutorials and test-taking advice before the week ends with a series of admissions exams. This morning, students watched a video that features the UAC-CP and highlights its academic focus, as well as its focus on production, research, community service extension, and leadership.

In his welcome message, Fr. Freddy talks to students about the unique mission of the College.

When I visited the orientation session at 11:30 today, UAC-CP Director Fr. Freddy was in the middle of welcoming students and talking to them about the mission of the UAC-CP. He told the packed lecture hall that the College is not a traditional institution of higher education; it doesn't exist to prepare people to work in offices, sitting behind computers. The College, he said, is a response to the need for development in the rural sector, which essentially means you have to roll up your sleeves and work along side the people. He made it clear that students are expected to work both in and outside of the classroom ("machete in hand," he said). "We expect that when you leave here, you will go back to your communities and help your people--that you will take away from here the lesson of solidarity, of service to improve the lives of others."

As I've noted before, it's always particularly exciting to have new students here. You can't help wonder who these young people are...and, more to the point, who they will become in the years that they live and study here. Some are brothers and sisters of former students and graduates, others are here for the first time, and a few are local kids--ones I've practically watch grow up over the span of time I've lived in Carmen Pampa.

Like 16-year-old Guadalupe. This morning when I drove the truck to the upper campus I was accompanied by Guadalupe--a recent graduate of the local Carmen Pampa high school. She wants to study Agronomy at the UAC-CP, she told me, and eventually hopes to specialize in Industrial Agriculture. "So, what are you feeling?" I asked her. She confessed that she was feeling afraid. When I prodded, she admitted that she's nervous about all the things any other college freshman would be nervous about: classes, homework, meeting new friends, living in the dorms, etc. I assured her that a year from now she won't be able to imagine ever feeling anxious. "By the end of next year," I promised her, "you won't even be able to imagine having been so afraid." For me, I think, it will be fun to watch her transform.

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