Building A Better Future For Baja’s Students

It’s about more than just giving them money
BY: JIM KEARNS

For Cecilia Avalos, her passion is the life of local students.  She fosters that passion as the co-founder, along with her husband, architect Jacinto Avalos. She is the executive director of Building Baja’s Future. This nonprofit provides local students with financial assistance, internships and work opportunities through various workshops, classes and seminars, all in an effort to give them the skills and resources needed to make it through college. Avalos, who started a new private school here out of frustration with the system when her kids were growing up, is now an empty-nester and spends nearly full time on this volunteer project.

cecilia.JPGQ. Tell us a little bit about Building Baja’s Future.

A. I can talk for hours about this. My goal is to engage good students who are in public schools and would like to go to college, but their families don’t have the means or are unable to send them to college. We not only pay for their education, but also educate them socially, morally, culturally and physically.

Q. How does Building Baja’s Future work?

A. I first go to all the public high schools and interview all the children in the 12th grade who have at least a 9.0 grade point average (in Mexico, the highest grade point average is a 10.0). I have each of those students, which is about 100 total, write two essays. One essay is about their life and family, the other is about what they want to be in the future. Then I give each student an S.A.T. test.

After reading the essays and checking the test scores, I narrow down the group of 100 to about 40 students. I then visit the homes of each of those students to learn more about them and to make sure their families are financially unable to pay for their college education. At that point, I award them a scholarship for all their future education.

I also take them on a retreat, usually to a resort so we can get together and discuss the career goals of each student. I decide, along with the student, which university will be best for their chosen career. Depending on the path they choose, it will be three to six years of schooling. Along with the time spent at the university, all students must learn English and I have a private tutor to teach English to each student. Every student must take a minimum of two hours of English a week until they graduate from the university.

They must also take a cultural class once a month where they learn personal values and, as time passes, they will learn family values and then community values. All students receiving a scholarship must do 60 hours of community service a year. The kids volunteer and are working with almost every charity in Los Cabos.

Each student also must know how to swim, and if they don’t, they must take weekly swimming lessons, which are provided by Building Baja’s Future. At the end of each year I throw a big beach party for all the students. You would be surprised at how many students from Los Cabos have never been to the beach. Building Baja’s Future also offers the students professional drama and music lessons and pays for all outside costs associated with going to school.

Q. How many students do you now have in total?

A. I have 120 under scholarship.

Q. Do you or your staff receive any money or a salary?

A. No! The only people that get paid are the two English teachers, the two music teachers, the two drama teachers and, of course, the universities. I receive no money and all seminars, birthdays and private lessons are held in my husband’s offices in Pedregal at no charge. His staff also does all the book keeping, check writing, etc., for free.

Q. What do you think Los Cabos needs the most?

A. Better education and to fight impunity.

Building Baja’s Future is one of the few Los Cabos charities that is legally recognized by the USA, Canada and Mexico, with the paperwork needed for tax deductions in place in all three countries. For more information on Building Baja’s Future, or to make a donation, visit their website at www.buildingbajasfuture.org.