In the News
Jahselyn Medina '21, Sylvie Shure '20, Rachel McCarley '21, Maya Khurana '20, Partners for the Americas Vice President for Marketing Management and Global Citizenship Juliana Araujo, Alexis Lara '21, and Leon Kuo '21 met in February 2020 to discuss Prep's chapter application.
Partners for the Americas, founded in the early 1960s to foster long term involvement between U.S. communities and ongoing projects in Latin America, announced that Flintridge Preparatory School’s application to become a U.S. member has been approved. Prep is the first U.S. high school chapter to be accepted by Partners. Only one other high school chapter exists in Colombia, and Prep is currently the only group ever chartered in California.
Partners for the Americas (Partners), based in Washington, D.C., links established nonprofit entities in the U.S. with partner organizations and projects in Latin America for mutual benefit, matching “resources, knowledge and passion to need.” Sharing expertise and support with one another, groups commit to become change agents to develop solutions for a variety of challenges. Partners helps facilitate relationships, including exchanges, conferences, and seminars; although Partners helps find funding opportunities, the nonprofits are responsible for their own costs and fundraising.
During the 2018-2019 academic year, a group of Prep students were galvanized by political and economic upheavals, particularly in Venezuela and Nicaragua (where Prep has an ongoing relationship). Wanting to provide meaningful help, they found that Partners was successfully working with groups on the ground in those countries and throughout Latin America. With no way to connect officially with Partners, the students had an audacious idea: to create the first U.S. student chapter.
Guided by Spanish teacher Señor Manuel Nuñez, who had headed Prep’s Nicaragua program, World Languages Department Chair Fabian Bejarano, and Global Studies Coordinator Ingrid Herskind, a group of 16 students got to work. They met in a Prep classroom in June 2019 for a six-hour video conference with the Partners leadership, learning more about the organization, as well as the intricacies of a first-ever high school application process.
“At the beginning, the application process was daunting,” says Sylvie Shure ’20, who spearheaded the month-long application process, including drafting a mission statement, goals, a leadership succession plan, and guaranteeing the school’s long-term support of the chapter. “But so many of us were connected to the Spanish Department, and passionate about Latin America,” says Shure, who is also learning French and wants to study Russian at Middlebury College, where she’ll be starting this fall. “It was exciting, because it was so official. We had to create a constitution, the mission, the vision, annual plans — it was the most in-depth extracurricular activity I have ever participated in!”
Prep submitted the application in July 2019, and Shure served as president of the interim group as the chapter waited to be officially chartered. “It felt powerful to have everything all laid out,” Shure says.
The students decided to concentrate the work of their chapter on basic human rights: education, healthcare, and the environment. After attending a meeting at Pasadena City Hall they realized that if they focused their efforts on helping the homeless population in the city and Los Angeles County, they could impact all three areas of concentration. They also planned to join a summer project with Partners in Brazil to help with a rooftop water-harvesting program in Mexico City (now postponed).
In February 2020, Juliana Araujo, Partners’ vice president for marketing and global citizenship, visited students at Prep’s campus, where she notes that she learned more from them than they learned from her. “These passionate students and faculty are an inspiration for me. They are my hope for a better future with fewer inequalities and injustices—a more tolerant, respectful, and peaceful world,” Araujo says.
Señor Nuñez gives full credit to the students’ hard work for their unprecedented success and is equally proud of their intention to impact underserved populations at home and abroad. He says that the group, which will be called Prep Partners, is aligned with Prep’s Global Studies mission.
“At its root, Prep’s Global Studies initiative is about making meaningful contact with people in other countries and cultures, developing lasting relationships, and using our abilities to make a difference,” Nunez says. “Being the first U.S. high school chapter and the only one, ‘adult’ or student, in California carries special significance. I can see getting other schools involved and making a city-wide effort with our local programs. Within Prep, we can involve students interested in languages, sciences, arts, and sports as we work with local and international partners. It’s about commitment, service, and interconnection.”
It took seven long months to receive the official word from Partners, in part because Prep’s request was rare, given the few Partners high school chapters globally. “We believe in the power and energy that come with preparing future generations of leaders. We are in discussions on how to engage more with secondary level students throughout the hemisphere,” Araujo says. “We hope the Flintridge Prep example will encourage and be a catalyst for other high schools across the United States and around the Western Hemisphere.”
Prep’s chapter joins over 5,000 volunteers, 150 nonprofit partners, and 1,450 institutions of higher education in the Partners for the Americas organization.
Rachel McCarley ’21 has taken over as president for the inaugural year and is joined by Alexis Lara ’21 as vice president, Jahselyn Medina ’21 as treasurer, and Leon Kuo ’21 as the international officer. “Rachel is going to do such a good job,” says Shure. “Our chapter has stuck with it and is full of super-smart people. I can’t wait to see where they take this!”
Over this past summer, the Prep Partners officers met to discuss their plans for the school year and brainstorm virtual fundraising opportunities. The group is focused on forming partnerships with organizations that support the homeless community in Los Angeles; the students have been tapping into their connections with local organizations and nonprofits, as well as Prep groups, like the Spanish Honor Society and Student Community Action Council (SCAC).