Proyecta 100K: From Mexico to Sacramento
A select group from Mexico traveled to the California capital to meet their neighbor to the north as part of Mexico’s inaugural Proyecta 100K program. The nearly 40 students and professors from 10 universities represent a new generation of professionals in fields such as computer science, electrical engineering, marine biology, architecture and business.
For many, it was their first visit to America, in fact, the first time they traveled outside Mexico. “It’s incredible to see things that you’ve never seen in your life,” said Alexis Sahid Hernandez Michel, one of the Proyecta students.
Many are also the first in their family to attend college and now, among the first Mexican citizens to advance Proyecta 100K, a major academic and cultural initiative supported by both the US and Mexico. “They are pioneers,” says Paulo Pinto, senior manager of international programs at the English Language Institute (ELI).
The participants studied English every day during their four-week stay, met educators and civic leaders, and went on field trips to get a taste of life in America. ELI’s Proyecta 100K program received national recognition with the 2015 International Program of Excellence Award from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA).
Laying the Groundwork
In one year, 7,500 students and professors from Mexico studied at various universities in the US through Proyecta 100K, including the College of Continuing Education. They not only strengthened their English skills but laid the groundwork for future educational projects. The Mexican government made the initiative possible by awarding scholarships and among the recipients: 19-year-old Sahid, 23-year-old Diana and 25-year-old Dalila.
Three Students, Three Dreams
Alexis Sahid Hernandez Michel lives in Guadalajara and just started his computer engineering studies at Universidad de Guadalajara.
He was born with a rare genetic disorder, osteogenesis imperfecta, which resulted in brittle and fragile bones and at least 40 fractures before he was even a teenager. He lost the ability to walk when he was only six and now gets around in a wheelchair. ”For me, engineering is to try to make life easier for humans. With my abilities or my skills, I want to create things to make an easier life,” Sahid says.
Diana Mendoza Zamores will graduate with a business degree from Instituto Politecnico Nacional in Mexico City. She plans a career in tourism. “People who like traveling have to speak English because it is a universal language,” Diana says.
“Mexico possesses many tourist attractions, national parks and beautiful towns. And I think the tourism industry will be the main way for my country to grow,” Diana says, and described Mexico as “mega-diverse.”
Back home in Veracruz, Dalila Trinidad is completing her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at Instituto Tecnologico Superior de Coatzacoalcos. A practical choice, she says, since oil is the lifeblood of Veracruz.
“In order to have a better quality of life, you need an education,” Dalila says. For now, she’s working as an administrative assistant for an oil company to support herself and her grandmother. But her passion is medicine and she would like to attend medical school and become a doctor one day. “I love helping people. I want to do something to change people’s lives.”
The ALC Experience
The group arrived with different skill levels. Some had a little experience with English while others had intermediate to advanced conversational skills. ELI created an American Language and Culture (ALC) program tailored to their specific needs.
“We want to make their experience as positive as possible.” - Mark Wallinder, English Language Institute instructor
Diana, for instance, had taken classes in English grammar and pronunciation, but this was the first time she practiced conversational English — what ELI instructor Samra Kor calls “English with a purpose.” “It’s the best way to learn English,” Diana says, and she especially liked the presentation on American slang. “You say ‘gotcha’ a lot, and in Sacramento, it’s ‘Sactown.’”
When asked to share some of their fondest memories, Dalila talked about the promise she made, to eat something new every day. “I tried Vietnamese food for the first time, and Korean food, and the sushi here is the best.” Her host mom made her lumpia. a Filipino dish, which Dalila said ”looked just like taquitos.”
Sahid recalled the afternoon they met with Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez, who told the group his parents, just like theirs, were born and raised in Mexico. “I was a little nervous. You know he is an important person, but he was very cool,” Sahid says.
Sahid also listed some other favorite memories: playing pick-up basketball games on campus with specially-fitted wheelchairs, touring the television studios of News10, and watching his first professional basketball game. And to his delight, their photo from the Sacramento Kings game appeared the very next morning on News10. ”We were on American TV!” Sahid exclaimed.
A few days after her return to Mexico, Diana sent an email to ELI. The four weeks went by so quickly, she wrote. ”This program definitely was the best opportunity I had.”
Dalila also kept in touch and sent an email of her memories: ”I remember the last week when I wanted to squeeze every single minute to make it longer. I remember going to this huge library and trying to get all the information possible and talking with other students.
“I used to love walking around the campus after classes. There is a bridge where I loved to spend time watching the view. I also took a minute to stand there watching all the students come and go. I wanted to keep that in my mind, a good memory with beautiful trees around!”
Watch the YouTube video of the Proyecta group appearing on News10.