Thirteen students returned to their border city with new perspectives on how Mexican politics, history and culture impact the U.S.-Mexico border region. These binational high school seniors were chosen in January 2003 to participate in the innovative, binational Las Californias Youth Leadership Program sponsored by the International Community Foundation in San Diego.
In order to understand the Mexico’s political system and its policy-making processes, the students met with various key political officials including: Senators Héctor Osuna and Gilberto Morgan from Baja California, Congressman Alejandro Monraz Sustaita from Tijuana, as well as Senators Sadot Sánchez, Micaela Aguilar, Susana Stephenson, Guillermo Herbert, Luis Alberto Rico from the Human Rights Commission.
During the meeting, a wide-variety of environmental, health, education and human service issues along the Tijuana and San Diego border were addressed. Additionally, various opinions regarding migration from Mexico to the U.S. were explored between the students and political leaders. During the week, students also met with key officials at the U.S. Embassy, the Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (SRE), the Instituto Nacional de Ecología (INE), and the non-profit organization, Fundacion Nemi.
Cultural visits included the Templo Mayor, Teotihuacan, Tlatelolco and the Anthropology Museum guided by Archeologist Randie Reinhart and an evening at Bellas Artes watching Ballet Folklorico.
One student noted that, his favorite part was “…the visit to all the places where we were able to learn about our history. Also, the fact that important people took time to talk to us.”
Selected students from San Diego include: Areli Pérez and Nain Martínez (Castle Park High), Melissa Campos (Scripps Ranch High School), Ricardo Rozen (Torrey Pines High School), Rebecca Valenzuela (The Preuss School UCSD) and Sorayda Santos (Sweetwater High School).
Selected students from Tijuana include: Beatriz Eugenia Virgen López and Melisa Peña Esqueda (CETYS), Yanin Saucedo Monroy (CETis No.58), Marco Antonio Mendoza Blanco (CETis No.156), Daniel Santiago Cuevas and Alejandro González García (CONALEP Tijuana I), and Hammurabi Rubio Parra (Lázaro Cárdenas Barchillerato Internacional).
The students were accompanied by Richard Kiy (President of ICF), Amy Carstensen (Program Coordinator at ICF), Julia Christman (ICF Intern from IRPS at UCSD) and Sara Oswald (Teacher from Crawford High School).
The Las Californias Youth Leadership Program (LCYLP) is a year-long program, funded in part by the Rockefeller Foundation, for extraordinary high school students of Mexican descent from Tijuana and San Diego. The LCYLP provides participating students with a mentor-mentee relationship, job shadowing opportunities, community service projects, monthly seminars on U.S-Mexico relations, week-long field trips to Washington, D.C. and Mexico City to meet with senior policy makers involved in shaping policy impacting the San Diego/Tijuana border region and college scholarships. A primary goal of the LCYLP is to cultivate a group of future leaders with a binational perspective and take into account the complex needs of the region and use their talents to help Tijuana and San Diego in the future.