After 18 months of remote learning, Christel House Mexico is slowly and safely bringing students back for in-person learning. For 12th grader Fernanda A., respecting new safety rules to be together with friends and teachers at school is worth it. “We really missed being here at Christel House, our other home.”
Students are returning to the campus in assigned groups. To maintain social distancing the school is using a hybrid schedule, rotating students through a schedule of in-person and remote learning. Safety protocols are a priority. Once classes started, students were made aware of the necessary care to protect themselves, their teachers and classmates according to Gina Reyes, CHMX High School Principal. “All students attend school with a kit, where they bring face masks to change during the day, antibacterial gel and a bag to dispose of their used face masks.” All CHMX teachers and staff are fully vaccinated. While excited to have students back in school, everyone is cautious and careful. “Distance education has been a challenge,” reflects Reyes. “It taught us a lot – resilience, patience, flexibility, and above all the commitment to our community. Christel House has shown us that indeed, nothing is impossible when we put our heart and effort into achieving it. Our students are back in school, we can't wish for anything more.”
Sandra G. graduated from Christel House Mexico (CHMX) last year and faced a dilemma. She was accepted to two universities. While taking classes remotely due to the pandemic, she decided both schools offered her a unique opportunity. So, why not do both?
Sandra started a technical program in Tourism Administration at Ibero-American University. “I was very nervous since I was starting classes online,” she says. “As time passed, I have been able to adapt and move forward.” Comfortable with her studies and enjoying her tourism administration classes, Sandra wanted to add engineering classes at the National Polytechnic Institute of Mexico (IPN). She took the entrance exam and was accepted! She admits it was a challenge studying at two universities, but Sandra says she’s very organized. “I knew this was going to be difficult, but when you want something you look for that purpose to keep fighting, never forgetting your goals,” she says. After completing two semesters at Ibero and one semester at IPN, Sandra decided to pause her Engineering courses for one year, to allow her to complete her Tourism Administration classes. “Sandra wants to achieve high grades in both programs,” says Luis Serrano, CHMX College & Careers Coordinator. She’s grateful for the College & Careers program. “Being part of Christel House changed my life,” says Sandra, “and my family’s as well.”
The American Society of Mexico (AMSOC) is saluting Christel House Mexico (CHMX) for its “outstanding humanitarian contribution to the community during the year of 2020.” Javier Alarcón Benet, CHMX Executive Director, says the distinction honors the school’s committed staff and board. “I feel so grateful to work on this great mission with great colleagues.”
Christel House was one of a handful of organizations honored by AMSOC (including United Way Mexico, Special Olympics and Habitat for Humanity among others.) “They have faced big challenges,” said AMSOC in their announcement. “They have been working intensely with creativity, tenacity and professionalism to carry on with their important mission.” Christel House families faced economic uncertainty. With lockdowns, 89% of parents of CHMX students either lost their jobs or suffered significant reductions in income. Christel House staff responded, organizing food drives to safely provide thousands of meals and critical resources for students and their families. In 2020, through the AMSOC Organizations Steering Group, CHMX forged alliances with new community partners. “Without AMSOC, those new relationships wouldn’t have been possible,” says Alarcón Benet. “We are proud to have been awarded this Certificate of Excellence for how we faced the pandemic.”
The public university system in Mexico is very competitive – across all schools, only 10% of applicants will be accepted. The Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) is ranked No. 1 in Mexico by the QK Top Universities. This year, Christel House Mexico (CHMX) is proud to announce a record-setting five grads from the Class of 2020 were accepted to UNAM.
While Dana C., Gustavo R., Luis C., Nayeli G. and Sergio M. were admitted to UNAM, another eight CHMX graduates will be attending the Instituto Politécnico Nacional de México or ‘IPN’. IPN is recognized as the best public university to study engineering. The accomplishments of these students are spectacular in any given year, but even more impressive given the challenges of 2020. “It’s been terribly difficult for everyone,” says Tania Alvarez, CHMX Head of Schools. “Some of our students found themselves going to work to support their families and others devoted themselves to studying overtime to achieve their admissions.” With the help of the CHMX College & Careers team, teachers and academic staff, the graduates received needed support. She says all the students live with stress and trauma but didn’t lose sight of their goals. “They are dedicated, responsible, but above all, they are hard workers.”
Continuity is critical during a crisis. The team at Christel House Mexico is focused on keeping kids learning from their homes – that includes communicating with students via WhatsApp, Facebook, video messages and Zoom calls. Staying connected is part of the continuity plan. According to María Fernanda Méndez Pérez, Director of Institutional Development, the school has contacted all families to track their status and any needs. In addition to daily schoolwork, Christel House has provided over 4,000 deliveries of food and supplies for CHMX families through the pandemic. College & Careers students are also being assisted with groceries and support. “It’s important that we monitor our students that are in the process of entering the university,” says María. “We stay connected with everyone through social media.”
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