Vallarta Living | February 2007
|But What Do You Do All Day?|
Polly G. Vicars - PVNN
Since our 1988 retirement and move from Lexington, Kentucky to Puerto Vallarta, the most frequent question we get from old or new friends, casual acquaintances and strangers is, "But what do you do all day?" Husband's stock answer is: "In the mornings I don't do anything. In the afternoons I rest."
|Judy and Angelo Galeana with founder, Bernice Starr.|
|Parents and scholarship students waiting for the meeting to begin.|
|Papa, Mama and Becado listening attentively to Judy's words.|
|Moma, Becada, little brother and family pet.|
|Scholarship family. Three of the children in this family got their educations through the foundation at different times.|
|Everyone but the baby was intent on what was being said.|
Of course that tongue-in-cheek answer doesn't really tell our story. Lately, my attention has been to the Becas Vallarta as its 45th anniversary is looming, to be celebrated at the March 9th annual Becas Ball at the elegant Westin Regina.
Of course I want to urge each of you to buy tickets and join us, but that is not what is uppermost in my mind. Since our recent heartwarming visit from former scholarship student José Marciano, I have been thinking of the joy we found working, sometimes all day, sometimes every day, to get to know and help the scholarship kids and to assure that money was raised to support this foundation.
Listen to what Bernice Starr, our beloved founder, had to say in our annual newsletter ten years ago: "The world sees and hears negative news as prime news. Teenagers are prime news for the bad things they do, not for the admirable behavior of the majority. Our Scholarship Committee firmly believes that education programs like ours keep students from wanting to cause trouble. In our thirty-five years, not one of them has presented a problem! (That record still holds!) Our students come from every kind of home, all economically strapped, and more often than not, a one parent home. But they all share one thing in common, a thirst for education!"
She continued, "Judy and Angelo Galeana are dedicated to carefully following the 150 students at the junior high level - advising, prodding praising, and loving! When the students reach me at the senior high school level they are about 15 years old and have made their choice of major and school. They are shy, but excited by this step into senior high. Perhaps they will be the first in their family to enter senior high. It is very likely that their parents never completed primary school."
And "This year (1996) we have a record number of students. In senior high we have 60 students - 39 girls, 21 boys. In university we have 16 students - 8 girls and 8 boys. We give the same financial help to both levels - one-half of the cost of attendance such as: tuition, assessments, laboratory fees, special courses, expensive books in the professional fields, and one-half of the costs of transportation and lunches. Equal, more than equal to the monetary help given to our students, is the unstinting affection, respect, and encouragement given by the devoted members of the America-México Foundation." (Becas Vallarta, A.C.)
Back then, Husband and I opted to help Judy and Angelo Galeana with the 150 students in 11 junior highs. Prior to our joining in, Judy and Angelo took two weeks of their lives at least three times a year to board the rickety city buses to visit each of the schools, some of which are 25 miles out of town.
We were able to ease that pain (the cobblestones and the shock-absorber-less buses made that phrase quite meaningful) a little bit by making the visits in our old Volkswagen van.
What joyful and sometimes heart-rending experiences we had. Angelo, a Mexican with an incredible sense of humor and a love for young people, kept everything lively. He was especially invaluable in helping individual kids with their problems as they identified with their fellow countryman and could understand his Spanish that was not spoken with a southern accent.
Judy, his wife, while American by birth and citizenship, was able to talk in Spanish and understand and empathize with the kids as she had helped rear Angelo's four children as well as the one they had together. Husband and I tried to fit in wherever we could be useful.
On the days when we met with the parents and the students in their schools, mamas, papas, uncles, aunts and family pets crowded the classrooms. The incredible smiles that appeared on faces when Judy (she always did the talking, as her Spanish was great) told them if those kids who had been awarded a scholarship kept their grades up and continued to be good citizens, the foundation would continue their scholarships until they reached their educational goals - whether it be high school or university. At the close of the meeting, each parent always made a special effort to tell each of us how much this meant to them and to thank us profusely.
But it was not always joyful. When our trip to the schools was to get the first semester grades from the social workers, we would inevitable have kids who did not make their grades. This called for another trip to meet with the students and their parents to try to assess the situation and solve any problems.
Sometimes the falling grades were due to illness, sometimes due to a bad situation in the home, sometimes due to poor nutrition or some other problem. Where we could help, we did - even finding ways to see that the kids got enough of the right nutrition. But sometimes nothing helped and at the end of the second semester we had to tell the student and the parent that the scholarship was lost.
Those were the hard times and Judy's and my tears often got mingled with Mama's as we hugged and consoled each other. Happily, we could always tell them that if the student got those grades up, she or he could resume the scholarship the next year.
In addition to these many visits to the schools, Judy and I kept all the records for the students. First Judy did it on her typewriter, then gradually we got everything on my computer. We made a great team and spent more time than I like to say on the telephone verifying that we had all the information correct and forms ready for the meetings. It was fun, it was fulfilling and it was important.
Nowadays, many things have changed. Sadly, wonderful Angelo has passed away. The meetings for all of the schools are held at one time at the Los Mangos Library, another legacy from Bernice Starr.
We now buy school uniforms, shoes and all necessary school supplies for junior high students amounting to about $160 USD per student per year. We also give monthly stipends to high school and university students, which amount to a yearly total of $450 USD for each high school student and $600 USD for each university student.
Still the mamas and papas are grateful and awed that this opportunity is being given to their children. Their gratitude is always expressed with a hug, a handshake and a smile that lights up the room. And Judy, Husband and I still find joy in whatever we can do to see that the Foundation flourishes, that the money flows in, and that bright young Vallartenses with scarce resources can get the education they desire and deserve.
To help some other bright young person achieve her or his educational goal there are many avenues for you. First, you can buy tickets and come to the 45th Anniversary Becas Ball on Friday, March 9th at the beautiful Westin Regina Hotel.
Another option is to sponsor a student through the foundation. As described above, it only takes $160, $450 or $600 to sponsor a student for one year. Donations to honor birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions are welcomed and announced to the honoree with a cheery greeting card. Memorials to loved ones are also a great way to help. The family of the loved ones will also receive a lovely card announcing the gift.
Practically every cent you donate goes directly to scholarships. The Foundation has no paid staff, no office, no equipment, no telephone. And if you really want to get to know these special kids, you can always become a working member of Becas Vallarta, A.C. All of the foundation's projects are carried out by caring members - so join us, you will love it!
For tickets or more information see http://www.puerto-vallarta.com/amf/ or call me at 223-1371.
Polly G. Vicars and her husband of 55 years, Hubert (a.k.a. "Husband") retired to Puerto Vallarta in 1988 and soon became active members of several charitable organizations. Polly is the author of "Tales of Retirement in Paradise: Life in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico" [a sell-out!] and "More Tales of Retirement in Puerto Vallarta and Around the World." Proceeds from the sale of her books go to the America-Mexico Foundation, a scholarship foundation that is their passion.
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