PICTOU — A Pictou Academy student is taking a special trip to Mexico in March.
Katrina Bate, who is in Grade 11, is among 21 students travelling to the state of Campeche from March 6 to 21 as part of the Nova Scotia-Campeche International Learning Camp and service learning project for 2020.
She is among three Chignecto-Central regional students. The others attend schools in Pugwash and Kennetcook. A government scholarship pays for the students’ trip, although they needed to advance $400 to hold a spot.
“I’m really surprised,” she said. “I’ve always liked doing leadership and working with children, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to get some experience.”
The Nova Scotia International Student Program (NSISP) provides scholarships for the students attending the camp. They are chosen based on the leadership skills they display in their schools and communities.
Andrea Ashton, NSISP’s marketing and communications officer, explained the application process the students undergo at Chignecto-Central and the province’s other regional education centres.
“We send out information and applications to the centre, and Katrina would have applied,” she said.
This is the 15th year for the camp, which occurs in March. Canadian students are matched with Mexican students.
“Our students live with host families, attend school most days, learn Spanish from the students they’re paired with and teach them English,” Ashton said. “They take in all the experiences and culture of Campeche. They have a true Mexican experience.”
Students raise money for individual and collective education and health needs in Mexico.
“Money is raised to leave there — up to $25,000 that the group takes with them,” Ashton said. “Public schools are not funded like here, so the money pays for things like books and toothbrushes.”
Campeche is located on the western side of the Yucatan Peninsula. Its history goes back nearly 500 years from the first Spanish who arrived there in 1540.
“The inner city is from the 1700s, and outside the walls it’s more modern,” said Bate, who said Halifax and Campeche being sister cities appealed to her. “I’ve seen a lot of pictures, and we have a lot of information. I don’t think there will be anything disappointing about it.”
Past students have helped underprivileged children and young adults. They have participated in projects designed to improve the quality of life in elder shelters and orphanages, as well as cancer centres, sports venues and education facilities.
Katrina Bate stands beside a globe showing Mexico’s location in the Western Hemisphere. (Goodwin photo)