POUGHKEEPSIE – Two teachers and a guidance counselor from the Poughkeepsie City School District will travel to Oaxaca, Mexico this August in the first initiative of the Poughkeepsie-Oaxaca Friendship Committee.
The committee, which has several Latino members, was formed in October 2018 to further ties between educational, cultural and business connections between Poughkeepsie and Oaxaca, the city of origin for many Poughkeepsie residents. Poughkeepsie has often been called “Little Oaxaca” by journalists because of its thriving restaurants, stores, auto repair shops and other businesses in the Main Street corridor, many of which are owned and operated by Mexicans hailing from Oaxaca.
The Poughkeepsie-Oaxaca Friendship Committee designed the teacher exchange based on input from parents, educators and public officials.
“One of the most important things we do as residents of a community is to commit to the education of our children,” said Mayor Rob Rolison. One quarter of all the school children in Poughkeepsie are Latinos, many from Mexico.
“This program will give our teachers the opportunity to learn about the history and culture of where their students and parents come from,” said Franky Perez, a counselor in the Poughkeepsie Middle School. Perez has 25 years of experience in the Poughkeepsie School District with the last six at Poughkeepsie Middle School. He said a large portion of the student body comes from or has close ties to Oaxaca and it will be interesting to visit the magnificent ruins in Mexico.
Perez and teachers Joyette Walton and Blanca Calderon will spend a week in the city of Oaxaca and its surrounding villages, visiting schools, touring historic sites, and learning about the culture by staying in an Oaxacan home, visiting markets, artisan workshops and museums.
On their return to Poughkeepsie, the teachers will present what they learned with their colleagues, students and members of the community. They will also incorporate this material into their curriculum.
Their trip is being funded by the Vassar College Frances D. Fergusson Good Neighbors Partnerships and private donations.
“We hope this teacher exchange is the first of what will be many visits between our two cities,” said Eleanor Charwat of the Friendship Committee.
Anyone interested in learning more about Poughkeepsie’s Oaxacan connections is invited to attend La Guelaguetza, the eleventh annual Oaxacan corn festival, starting a 1 p.m. at Waryas Park on Sunday, August 4. The festival attracts thousands to Poughkeepsie’s waterfront every year for a day of music, dance, food and crafts.