Spring break for students at HGSE means many things; a much needed break, a chance to recharge, and for others a chance to compliment their in-the-classroom learning. Fourteen students from the Harvard’s Divinity, Kennedy, and Education school collaborated on an opportunity to participate in a study trek in Colombia.
Former Colombian minister of education Maria Fernanda Campo, Fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, played a key role in helping to organize the study trek. Through her help, we were fortunate to meet with a wide variety of education programs. We met with public schools, charter schools, private universities, public universities, foundations, and even had the opportunity to visit the presidential palace and be greeted by Colombia’s first lady María Clemencia Rodríguez Múnera.
We spent time in Bogotá as well as Cartagena to learn about the challenges an opportunities faced within the education system. While each student had their own takeaways from the trip, I take away two things. One, significant learning outcomes can take place for students without millions of dollars, all you need are educators, parents, and learning communities committed to the future of its youth. Two, Colombian people are eager to reframe the public narrative that has been portrayed by outsiders, Colombia is proud and looking to shed the negative aspects of the reality they have experienced. Its people are hard workers, committed, intelligent, happy, proud, and welcomed us with open arms and plates full of food everywhere we went. Beyond the great educational and cultural learning I experienced, what I will never forget is the cariño I was given. I promised to help reframe their story and I look forward to being back with all my family, hasta la próxima.
Gerardo Ochoa is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Higher Education Program. He has dedicated his professional journey to address issues of college access, persistence, affordability, and helping students find their life purpose. Born in Michoacán, Mexico, Gerardo now calls Portland, OR home. Follow Gerardo on twitter at @gerardoochoa.