Tony Memmel, Ben Picker, and Lesleigh Memmel in Montevideo
Before we began our programming in Uruguay this week, we had a morning briefing at the U.S. Embassy, in Montevideo. A driver picked us up at our hotel and drove us on the main drag that runs along the waterfront called the Rambla. Smart cars and vans zoom in and out of the lines, and motorcycles do a speedy, elegant weave in and out of traffic.
We pulled up to the large, grey building, went through security, and were met by the local embassy staff to learn more about the city, the people, and what to expect from our scheduled programs.
The Montevideo Binational Center Access Micro Scholarship Students
Our first program was at the Binational Center with Access Micro Scholarship students. This two-year English-language learning program is offered to local teenagers in low-income communities. We played some music and had a great discussion about our two cultures. Through music, we shared about goal-setting, hard-work, and about the students’ lives and hopes.
Our second visit was at a special place called Providencia. It was created as an after-school program in 1994, and it has grown so much that they started a high school that serves the community.
Post-concert group photo with the Providencia High School students.
We were told that statistically, what we know as the middle school and early high school years in the U.S. are especially crucial years for many children in this country. There is a high dropout rate in some communities. Providencia is thriving and helps serve this population of youth.
As we took the tour around the school, I could feel a special level of care from the teachers. They had a noticeably high level of pride in the school and in the successes of their students.
The students were excited for our visit, and we were all moved by their gratitude and enthusiasm. We were met with welcome signs, prepared questions that they had for the band, and a performance by some music students who play a local style of music called candombe (which, of course, was followed-up by a jam session between our two groups).
After the concert, we were mobbed by students wanting autographs. It felt like Beatlemania (Memmelmania?) had arrived at Providencia. They were all very sweet and kind; we were grateful for the love they showed us, and for the opportunity to be a part of their community for the week.