Vallarta Living | August 2008
|Becas Vallarta: And the Winners Are...|
Polly G. Vicars - PVNN
Puerto Vallarta - Crisp new uniforms, shiny backpacks, excited girls and boys marked the beginning of the school year for Puerto Vallarta's young people. However, according to an article in the Spanish language "Tribuna de la Bahia," the cost of school supplies, uniforms, school and tennis shoes have risen alarmingly, thus making Becas Vallarta, A.C. (America-Mexico Foundation, Inc.) more important than ever to the young people of Puerto Vallarta and to their struggling families.
|President Mariel de Fregoso setting up the files.|
|Ana Caty Fenyvessi getting everything ready, including all that dinero I was going to give to the becados.|
|The beautiful Buri Gray, co-coordinator for University becados, always with a warm smile.|
|Mercedes de Martinez, co-coordinator of the university becados, always extending a helping hand.|
|Secretary Sylvia Sorenson with husband and member Vern and great Becas supporter Richard Bendix, all working for Becas at the Altruism Festival.|
|Our most loyal supporters, Cheo Rangel and Sergio Valle, who work at every event.|
|Treasurer Cuca Preciado with our computer expert Linda Wirth.|
|Pat Bendix, Linda Wirth, Tom Rasch, Eleanor Prawer taking a needed breather between groups.|
|Happy mamas, sisters, brothers, babies from the outlying school El Ranchito.|
|Becado in Las Aralias junior high Oliver Martin Gómez Ramos with his sister Poala and Mother and Father Concepción Ramos Herrandez and Father Martin Amado Gómez Züniga.|
|Caesar Antonio Rodriguez Vidrio with a fellow becado. Caesar graudated from junior high with a 9.0 grade point average and is now entering high school.|
|Becada Jessica Viviviana Peña Estrella with her father. Jessica graduated from Las Ramblases with a 9.5 and is entering high school.|
|Becada from Pesquera Junior High #15 Rosa Maria Garcia Gonzales (in black), Mama Lucila Gonzalez Zonga, Papa Gumercindo Garcia Espindola with brothers and sister. What a beautiful family!|
|The sons of Hector Ulloa, Member & Los Profes Proprietor, helping with the supplies for the becados.|
|Lans Department Store Associates who work with Becas to be sure all the required uniforms are available.|
At our annual August 2008 meetings this past Saturday and Sunday with our almost 300 incredible scholarship students and their parents, two of our all volunteer foundation members got to work early on Saturday. President Mariel de Fregoso, coordinator of the high school students, and Ana Caty Fenyvessi were already at Los Mangos Library setting up chairs and tables when Linda Wirth and I arrived at 9 am.
Buri Gray and Sergio Valle soon joined us to do all that must be done to prepare to give almost 200 high school and university students the stipend they get twice a year. Of course, Treasurer Cuca Preciado had previously gone to the bank to get the cash needed to give 97 high school becados their $2750 pesos ($275 USD) and to 87 university students their $3500 pesos ($350 USD) for this first installment of two. And importantly, Becas backers had supplied the needed "dinero" with larger donations and record breaking ticket sales to our breakfasts and the annual Becas Ball.
Besides the setting up of the Sala Bernice Starr, named after our founder and the person who persevered for thirty years to make this great library a reality, receipts had to be prepared for each student, the cash had to be arranged in the proper amounts for each group and every detail had to be checked.
Our incredible Secretary, Sylvia Sorensen, had meticulously prepared spread sheets for each category listing all the important data for every student, handouts with invitations to the December Posada and a letter to the parents spelling out the obligations of the scholarship recipients.
New member Ana Luisa Espinosa Uribe arrived and went to work helping Buri, Linda and Mercedes de Martinez, the coordinators of the university students, ready the money and receipts at one end of the room while Ana Caty, Mariel and I did the same at our end. Soon, Sergio, who always fetches and carries for us, supplied us with ice, soft drinks, plastic cups and more change that we needed.
Then we were ready to receive the students who were waiting their turns. One by one they went to the appropriate table to chat with Mariel or Mercedes. Through the year they had talked with these coordinators many times so they know they are there to solve problems or celebrate triumphs.
At both tables we were checking to be sure that Sylvia had all the pertinent information for each student correct: grades, telephone numbers, email addresses. Each student is required to bring a copy of the inscription (tuition) payment and a copy of the previous semester's grades.
When everything is accounted for and noted, they move on to me or my counter part at the other table to receive the actual stipend. What a wonderful job to have! The smiles, hugs, hand shakes and cheek kisses were the high light of my day!
Such great young people who are so grateful for this help Becas Vallarta gives them that it could be almost compared to their winning the lottery. Actually they have won the lottery, but they had to work hard for it, as no one gets a scholarship by just being lucky.
There are definite criteria for being awarded a scholarship by Becas Vallarta. First, students must have and keep a grade point average of 8.5 out of a possible 10. With this grade point average they apply to the Social Workers in each junior high (we begin the program for 2nd year junior high students) with a completed application that includes information on family income, how many live in the home, whether the home is owned or rented and even the kinds of food they eat.
The SW tries to visit the homes of the prospective scholarship students to check the accuracy of the application and see the degree of economic need. They must be attending a public school in Puerto Vallarta, but we are hoping to expand the program into Nayarit with the cooperative agreement we recently established with the Punta de Mita Foundation and from the reaction of Executive Director Erica Martling who dropped in to observe, it looks very promising. For more information, please visit PuntaDeMitaFoundation.org.
If two or more students have the same grade point average (many of our students attain 9.8, 9.9 and a few attain perfect 10s) the deciding factor is economic need. Coordinators of the junior high students, Pat Bendix, Linda Azcarate and Blanca Ortiz, choose as many applicants in each of the 13 schools with which we are working to bring the total becados in each school to approximately 10. The three new recipients Telesecundaría El Colorado, Telesecundaría El Ranchito and the orphanage Sor Juana de Asbaje are working their way up to the full complement.
By quitin' time, most of the high school and university kids had their money. The university students who were unable to come to the library will receive their money in a private visit to the home of coordinator Mercedes de Martinez and the high school students will come to my home, as coordinator Mariel de Fregoso has embarked on a well deserved month long trip to Europe and Asia. ¡Buen Viaje Mariel!
Tired, but happy, we turned off the lights, locked the doors and went home to prepare for the very different next day's meeting with the junior high becados.
At about 8:30 Sunday, Tom Rasch, a staunch supporter from Alameda, California who is vacationing in his Vista del Sol condo with his children, Eric and Sarah (both teachers) came over. He was excited to help and to see where his many dollar donations were going.
Linda Wirth picked us up (Husband, who always goes, is laid up with a bad case of bronchitis and under doctor's orders to take it easy) and soon after arriving at the library, we were all moving big tables and chairs into the Sala and the outside veranda. Loyal members Pat and Richard Bendix, Ana Caty Fenyvessi, Mariel and Carlos Fregoso, Cheo Rangel, Linda Wirth, Tom and I set up tables on the veranda to check in each student.
We had divided the thirteen schools into two sessions: seven schools at 10 am and six at 11 am. Sylvia had prepared signs and check-in sheets for each school. The students are required to find their school sign, check in and see that the data on the check-in sheets are correct.
After that procedure is finished the volunteers give each student a booklet of vouchers for them to use to buy uniforms, gym clothes, school and tennis shoes. Arrangements have been made in advance with Lans Department Store, Los Profes Book Stores and other stores to accept the vouchers and bill Becas for the purchases. This relieves the younger students from having to deal with cash that could be lost or hi-jacked for other purposes.
Both Lans and Los Profes have been staunch supporters of our program for many years. Indeed, Hector Ulloa, proprietor of Los Profes, is on the Committee and was a becado himself many years ago.
Vouchers in hand, the students go into the Sala where Mariel goes through each page of the booklet so that every becado knows exactly what she or he has. The booklet also contains the list of school supplies that they will shortly get from Hector's table outside, as well as an invitation to the December Posada and a list of the obligations of a scholarship student. You can see that Secretary Sylvia had been working very hard to prepare all of this on her computer, print, collate and deliver. Great job Syliva!
After all questions are asked and answered, the kids go out to the veranda to pick up the school supplies that Hector and his sons had packaged in advance and brought to the library for distribution. Each kid takes home 2 bulging bags containing 12 spiral notebooks, 10 pens of different colors, a box of pencils, a pencil sharpener, a package of 500 sheets of white paper, a box of colored pencils, a ruler and a compass.
The first year becados that are entering the second year of junior high also get a calculator and a dictionary. The cost of these supplies is about $400 pesos ($40 USD.) Imagine a laborer with 5 children having the money to buy all these supplies, plus the uniforms and shoes!
So who are the winners? Certainly our scholarship students to whom we pledge, if they continue to meet the criteria, to extend their scholarships until they meet their educational goals, even if it takes them all the way through medical, dental, law or graduate school.
But to me, the big winners are us volunteers! No other endeavor swells my heart like seeing the successes of our graduates (and there are many) or receiving the quiet "gracias" of a young girl or boy, or getting one of those wonderful hugs and cheek kisses, or having a Mama or Papa make a special effort to tell me how grateful they are for our help! Becas Vallarta! What a magnificent program for us and our girls and boys!
Click HERE to learn more about Becas Vallarta - America-Mexico Foundation.
Polly G. Vicars and her husband of 57 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.
Click HERE for more articles by Polly Vicars.