Story by Kelsey Hussey
Fourteen Colorado State University students recently stepped out of their comfort zones for a course that allowed them to engage with youth living in the communities surrounding the CSU Todos Santos Center in Mexico.
“The thing that I will carry with me on this trip will definitely be the connections I made with the kids,” said Chloe Beardsley, a CSU chemistry student. “Getting to know them and hearing about their dreams and aspirations was so rewarding. It really made me feel like the whole thing was worth it.”
The two-week “Youth and Family Engagement” course was offered by the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and took place in Baja California Sur, Mexico, in May. The CSU Todos Santos Center offers an outlet for students to grow as global citizens by experiencing another language and culture.
Faculty members Jen Krafchick and Janina Farinas, along with Director of Summer Session Initiatives Anne Van Arsdall, worked to develop the course with Todos Santos Director of Special Projects and Partnerships Kim Kita.
During the course, some students focused on conducting in-depth needs assessments for youth in the community, while other students piloted different outreach programs. Prior to departing on the two-week course, the students and faculty prepared by familiarizing themselves with the Mexican culture and subjects such as parenting, impacts of health care, leadership and international development. By cultivating discussions around these topics, the group felt prepared to appropriately engage with the local communities around the Todos Santos Center.
Once they arrived at Todos Santos, the students took Spanish classes in the mornings and then split up in the afternoons to engage with elementary and secondary students. While visiting the schools, the CSU students used hands-on models to interact and communicate effectively.
“We focused on learning about students’ concerns, challenges and hopes for the future,” said HDFS doctoral student Hannah Saunders. “We did this through interactive, therapeutic ‘games’ that allowed us to gain information in a more enjoyable way, in contrast to question-and-answer methods.”
The students also took time to visit the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional in La Paz to learn about higher education and explore collaborations with their faculty and students.
This newfound perspective on community-based research helped the CSU students find importance in listening and engaging with the community before anything else. Most importantly, the students and the community started to feel welcomed and comfortable in the new setting.
“I felt like part of the community rather than just a visitor,” Van Arsdall said.