When Mariana Day moved in 1989 to the small beach town of Chacala, in Nayarit, Mexico, she noticed that the surrounding rural areas struggled to maintain schools. And most children weren’t able to go beyond an eighth-grade education. Day, who is a member of the Rotary Club of Bahía de Jaltemba-La Peñita, in Nayarit, had started a local scholarship program before she joined Rotary. Called Changing Lives, the program provided students with high school tuition, uniforms, school supplies, and transportation.
In addition, Rotary clubs from the United States and Mexico have been investing in the education of children in Nayarit since 2003, providing scholarships and libraries and rehabbing school buildings.
The lasting impact in the region is apparent.
“I think the combination of the scholarship program and Rotary’s interaction with the schools has made things seem possible, has changed the climate of education here, and the way the people think about education,” Day says.
One example of Rotary’s impact is Carolina Gonzales Rivas. She was able to attend high school thanks to Day’s scholarship program. Rivas is currently working on her master’s degree and has recently joined the Rotary Club of Jaltemba-La Peñita.
“I think that what Rotary is doing by supporting education and supporting students is to have a vision for life, to have aspirations – that’s what is going to change the world,” Rivas says.
The Rotary Club of Berkeley, in California, USA, along with the Bahia de Jaltemba-La Peñita club and other North American clubs, recently tackled their largest project to date: a monthlong renovation of La Preparatoria 20 de Noviembre , a high school in the village of Las Varas. Funding came from a Rotary Foundation global grant and the financial contributions of six Rotary districts covering the 25 Rotary clubs that participated.
A total of 90 volunteers including the school’s teachers, students, and students’ parents, improved the old buildings and built three laboratory classrooms. All three feature new equipment and technology and can be used by local residents as well as students.
Eduardo Dominguez, a member of the Bahía de Jaltemba-La Peñita club, says one of the biggest rewards of these efforts is the fact that a college education is now a real possibility for local students.
“There are many young people in Mexico with huge potential and with much to give, as long as they are given an opportunity,” Dominguez says. “Rotarians are helping those opportunities to occur, for [these young people] to become contributors to their communities.”