One Rotary Center - Evanston, Illinois

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 ROTARY NEWS BASKET -- NO. 418                        27 SEPTEMBER 1995

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The Rotary News Basket offers information on activities, events, programs and people of Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation. Reports are changed each Wednesday by 5 p.m. Central Time. (On CompuServe, the information is changed on Thursdays at about 11 a.m. Central Time.) Editors of Rotary club and district publications are welcome to reprint all or part of any item. News Basket is not copyrighted and its contents may be distributed to public news organizations without special permission.

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TEACHER EXCHANGE BUILDS BRIDGES ACROSS MEXICO-U.S. BORDER

Hundreds of Mexican and U.S. citizens are learning to speak each other's language, thanks to a program started and managed by Texas Rotary District 5790. Through the district's Rotary Teacher Exchange, established during the 1991-92 Rotary year, dozens of volunteer teachers have been sent to communities across the Mexican border. They teach English to business and professional people, workers in the tourist industry, schoolchildren and other teachers.

The program has grown dramatically from the first year when two teachers from Grapevine, Texas, spent a month in classrooms in Cozumel. This summer 28 teachers from seven RI districts were sent to 15 Mexican cities, and, for the first time, three teachers traveled from Mexico to Texas. They taught Spanish to 100 Fort Worth police officers who aimed to pass a proficiency test that would make them more effective on the job as well as increase their pay.

"One of the aspects of my job is to create trust," Officer D.E. Dalco told the Dallas Morning News. "To do that you have to reach all ethnic groups." Another officer, Shelby Sullivan, who patrols in a predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhood added, "I get by right now with the few words I know and sign language, but people won't talk to us if we can't talk back to them."

The teachers' transportation is funded by individual Rotary clubs throughout District 5790 and other districts in California, Georgia, New Mexico, Tennessee and Texas. Their room and board is provided by Rotarians in the Mexican communities they visit. "The Rotary members took us in their homes and made us feel we were part of their family," said Melody Bell, one of the two teachers who went to Cozumel the first year. "They helped us with our Spanish while we taught them English."

The program was created in 1991-92 by then District 5790 Governor Conrad Heede and Past RI President Carlos Canseco of Mexico. The first exchange was set up when the two met with Isaac Uribe, then president of the Rotary Club of Cozumel, at the 1992 RI Convention in Orlando, Florida.

Heede, chairman of the Teacher Exchange, told News Basket that he expects the demand for this type of service will continue to rise. "It is estimated that in the near future at least 50 percent of the students in the schools of Texas will be of Hispanic origin," he said. "The knowledge and understanding our teachers have of the Mexican people and their culture as a result of their experience will enable them to be more effective teachers of all our students. We fully expect that this program will greatly expand not only between the U.S. and Mexico but between other countries as well."

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