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Mexico YMCA: Scholarship program combines academics and youth leadership

Children playing in an outdoor courtyard

From the moment I arrived at Camp Camohmila, Mexico City’s YMCA overnight camp in Tepoztlan, approximately 1.5 hours north of the city, I felt right at home — thanks to the incredible staff that made me feel welcome and a part of the family. I also quickly learned what an asset the camp is to its community. In addition to its overnight camp programs for 8 – 16 year olds, it is also offers a community campground, swimming lesson programs, family camps, and what might be the crown jewel: an incredible program called “Becario de Camohmila.”

The Becario (or “scholarship holder”) program has been running since the 1940s, and currently supports 80 students aged 8 to 15 who come from the surrounding rural communities and live on site while attending school Monday to Friday and participating in recreational and leadership programs. Beyond academics, this program provides these children with healthy meals and positive role models, and teaches them about responsibility and working together to be change agents in their communities and make the world a better place.

Once the participants turn 16, they move back to their home communities or continue to postsecondary education or professional training opportunities (supported financially through the Becario program), and stay connected to the program by volunteering weekly with the younger participants.

Each morning during my one-week stay at Camp Camohmila, Steph (another YMCAGTA staff member here with me!) and I went into the community of Ocotitlan with the community program staff and leadership volunteers from the Becario program to run activities with the children that were on school holidays. This experience demonstrated first-hand the amazing impact the Mexico YMCA staff — and the students that have come through the Becario program — have on the children in the community. It is inspiring to see how the children and youth look out for each other, how seriously the leaders take their responsibility of being a role model, and how everyone genuinely enjoys being together and a part of the program.

Keep an eye on our blog and social media channels for stories about our upcoming experience with the sport coordinators at the YMCA of Mexico and the students and professors of Universidad YMCA in Mexico City.

Leigh Coffey is the manager of Summer Day Camps at the YMCA of Greater Toronto.