JALTEPEC — Where Dreams Come True
By Mike & Sally Myers
In 1967, four businessmen from Guadalajara were intrigued by the thought of building a facility which would include a convention center and a school for young women to learn all aspects of the hospitality business. But where? From the shore of Lake Chapala, near the villages of El Chante and Tlaloc, they looked north, towards the mountains, and decided on the hilltop known as Jaltepec, which means “Hill of Sand” in Nahuatal. The ambitious plans of these anonymous benefactors were realized in late 1968, when Jaltepec opened its doors as a retreat house, convention center and hotel, as well as a hospitality management school.
The dream of the four benefactors is now the reality for over six hundred young girls, who have graduated from Jaltepec Centro Educativo. Thirty new students begin their training each August and they, like all of the students already enrolled there, will have their lives constantly challenged, over the next two years, in order to fulfill their desire to graduate and forever change their lives for the better.
The day starts at 6:30 a.m., with time set aside for studying and the Eucharist, before classes begin at 8 a.m. During the day, their studies include tasks like stain removal, laundry, ironing, cooking, bread making and baking.
They also learn to be proficient waitresses and dining room hostesses and managers. They acquire valuable life skills as well, such as oral and written expression, English, computer usage, accounting, etiquette and protocol, personal hygiene, human development, anthropology, and personal and professional ethics.
They are responsible for keeping the entire campus and retreat areas clean. The day includes an hour of free time in the morning and an hour and a half in the afternoon, but these times are typically used for studying. The day ends with a forty-five minute, informal get-together before bedtime at 10 p.m.
And they do this seven days a week; in addition, every Saturday afternoon, they do community service work with children in the towns of San Juan Cosala and El Chante. Now, that is dedication to making life better for everyone!
The Vice Principal of Jaltepec, Lupita Guadalupe Canepa Campos, explained that the majority of the students come from poor and difficult environments. She stressed that every girl has a story, and when they accept a student, they accept the family too.
Lupita is one of the twenty staff members who live on campus with their “Jaltepec family.” They have dedicated their lives to God and changing the often sad stories of the young women for a new beginning. Each student receives one hour per week of academic and personal counseling. The parents are encouraged to visit monthly for an update on their daughter’s progress.
Lupita spoke of a very shy student whose fear of failure was holding her back from trying new things. When Lupita met with the young lady’s father, she realized he was a perfectionist and had demanded the same from his daughter. With help, the father understood how he had contributed to his daughter’s behavior.
Father and daughter set goals and both have changed remarkably. The father now praises his daughter and his behavior has changed the whole family dynamic.
All students come to Jaltepec with a deep desire to help their families economically, and to help educate their siblings. However, many students are in need of tuition scholarships to obtain this goal. This year, with the exception of 5,000 pesos, all eight students in need received financial help through generous donations.
One student, Adrianna, who needed help to study at Jaltepec, comes from a family of seven siblings. Her father is a farmer and her mother cares for the large family. Another student, Andrea, comes from a family of twelve siblings. Her father recently returned from the United States, but has been unable to find work. Aurora’s father is a bricklayer, but his work is not steady. If he works a full week, he earns 1,200 pesos.
Some of the young women have to save money before they can attend Jaltepec, and still need help with scholarship funds. Ilse and her mother started a small business at home, baking cakes and selling them to restaurants. Rosa worked for three years in a shoe store and saved all her money to go to school at Jaltepec. Without generous donations, these and many other young women would not be able to complete their studies and improve their lives and the lives of their families.
There are many success stories involving the graduates of Jaltepec. They have used the skills they have learned in very creative ways. Some have opened donut shops, laundries and ice cream parlors. Others became event coordinators and caterers. One former student has a prestigious job working in Guadalajara at Casa Jalisco, the home of the governor of Jalisco.
Another enterprising student moved home to Tapalpa and makes yogurt from her father’s cows. Using the monies they make, the former students have paid for the education of their siblings and their own children, raising the economic standard of their families for all the generations to come.
These young women, like the many hundreds before them and those who will follow in their footsteps, have made their dreams a reality, for themselves, their families, and for all of Mexico.
Linda has been the community facilitator at Jaltepec for fourteen years. She once attended an open house, saw the importance of the school and got involved immediately. She not only organizes the open houses and fund-raising events, but works hard to make sure all students that need scholarships get them.
And, if you have an old computer you no longer need, it would be put to good use at Jaltepec. Just bring it to Erika Torres at Multiva, on the Carretera, in Ajijic.