By Don Krim
Progress reports from Jóvenes Adelante (JA) mentors and students fill me with anticipation, but in plague time also with trepidation. Heartbreak offset with gritty optimism inspires as well as wrenches: scholarship to France canceled, Colombian internship delayed—final internship cannot be placed, parent with COVID in house, teacher’s death, nursing student crushed by human suffering witnessed, classmates dropped out or gone. These are specific challenges JA students are facing, along with isolation, cabin fever, incomplete graduations, financial pressures, and barriers to getting online.
The solace is that unlike other students without support beyond their immediate families, JA students have an extra family: JA. They know it. Out of every communication, in a way that feels different this year, one can feel that these students know they are not alone. They have mentors to encourage them, student support staff to rely upon, psychologists to turn to in distress, sponsors committed to their success and achievements, colleagues. They still have hope.
“I am one of the few in my community pursuing a university degree. [Younger] generations admire me for my effort and are inspired to continue studying. What has remained in my mind is that I was accepted in Jóvenes Adelante, which I appreciate so much for giving me the opportunity to demonstrate that I can really be a successful student and get ahead with the resources provided.” (M.C., 2020)
On Jan. 15, almost 500 members of the San Miguel de Allende broader community attended a Facebook Live orientation to Jóvenes Adelante’s 2021 application process. JA has received over 400 applications, with 160 proceeding to the second round. Do you have a gardener with a daughter entering college? A housekeeper with a son, a neighbor, or friend reaching for a future through higher education? Invite them to apply. Would you like to mentor a student, tutor a student, financially support a student?
Imagine 500 students applying by the Feb. 12 deadline; imagine how many kids will be turned away; imagine each one deserving—by virtue of their goals and human right to have access to higher education—but only a select few will make it. The odds of a JA student making it through a full university career are over three times the odds of the average Mexican university student: 85 percent.
San Miguel must not forget these students who are its future. Each will have a story. Each has his or her own struggles, conviction, and profile of excellence. A commitment to higher education is reaching critical mass in Mexico, finally. Access is still key, and support through completion—especially for students beginning during what we will probably call the COVID years—is a challenge until we reach a whole generation of highly educated, Mexican young adults. JA wants any college-bound student to have opportunity and access to that future. With the support of the San Miguel local and extended community, another 30 will be on that road this coming year.