The University of Central Oklahoma began it’s Passport program four years ago to give students a chance to expand their awareness of cultures other than their own.

Susan Spencer, Passport coordinator, said they are beginning to focus their efforts more on globalization to better prepare students to work in a global world. She said that’s one reason this year’s program is Passport to Central America and Mexico.

“We try to find countries that students will work in or with,” Spencer said. “We have a large percentage of students (who) are from these countries or have ancestors from these countries.”

Students already have had the opportunity to attend 11 events, including a presentation by Chris Price, and still have several opportunities throughout the rest of the semester. Price spoke to students about his time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica and his work with World Neighbors, an international development organization.

“Development organizations invest in people,” Price said. “Not things.”

He said they go into rural countries and teach people how to work together as a community to approach important issues, including management of natural resources, farming techniques and birth control. Price said myths about how HIV is transmitted, poor health care and limited preventative resources are problems rural countries face. Costa Rica is one of seven countries in Central America.

Price said the world has gotten smaller as countries are more interconnected through technologies, including the Internet.

“What happens in one part of the world affects the rest,” he said. “I think one of the best things they (students) can do is critically analyze the information they receive.”

Cora Bradley, graduate student, said she has attended 10 of the events so far.

“I’ve never participated before but I’m interested in Mexico and Central America,” she said.

She said the event that most impacted her was a film on Guatemala City garbage dump. More than 4 million pounds of garbage is dumped there each day. People flock to the dump each day to salvage things they can sell on the street and to eat whatever leftovers there are.

“I felt like I was there,” Bradley said. “I’m a giving type and it makes me want to find a way to help.”

Spencer said students that get their passports stamped at ten different events can enter a drawing to win three free credit hours.



FOR MORE information on Passport to Central America and Mexico visit http://bronze.ucok.edu/passport.

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