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Mexican High School Students Visit Pensacola With Citizens Diplomacy Council

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Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
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Fourteen high school students from Mexico are visiting the Pensacola area, part of the youth group Jovenes en Accion, Youth in Action. 

At UWF last week, they took part in a roundtable discussion concerning gender, ethnic, and social discrimination at their schools and in the surrounding communities. 

“How do we make differences, how do we begin to bridge the gap so that we find a space for creating number one,  dialogue, and then number two, solutions toward making it better,” said Dr. Lusharon Wiley, UWF’s Ombudsperson, and Senior Associate Dean of Students. 

One student team is from a high school in the state of Oaxaca, located south of Mexico City on the Pacific Ocean. Their issue is the bullying and harassment of indigenous students, for whom Spanish is a second language.

“Thirty percent of [students] speak an indigenous language, and only thirteen percent admit it,” one of the students said. “The part of the school that rejects them, makes them think that their culture is not valuable enough. So we’re working with different workshops and projects.”

Gender discrimination was the focus of a group from Yucatan on the Mexican Gulf Coast, and a third team is from a school in the state of Chiapas , next to Oaxaca and adjacent to Honduras and Belize. Their contention is that every student takes their own path to learning, and that there’s no right way or wrong way,  just different.

“This group of students specifically is part of a U.S. State Department youth leadership exchange,” said Matt Rizzo, Program Coordinator with the Gulf Coast Citizens Diplomacy Council, which is playing host to the students’ visit to Pensacola. 

“It’s run through our embassy in Mexico City,” said Rizzo. “These students are in the United States for about a month, looking at issues of discrimination as well as other issues in their communities that they’re creating service projects to address.”

The kids have also been touring the Pensacola area, including work at the Feeding the Gulf Coast food bank. Next up, says Rizzo – three visitors from Taiwan who will study agricultural issues, and a youth group from the Caribbean, similar to Jovenes en Accion. 

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