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UPrep Students Study Social Justice in Colombia

During our Intensive on Social Justice in Colombia, our students were able to learn first hand from communities that often find themselves on the margins of society.

Ciara McGrath and Elena Tello, Spanish Teachers

We are extremely proud of what our students accomplished in the intensive portion of our "Temas de Justicia Social en Colombia" (Social Justice Themes in Colombia) class. The class, which met first semester prior to the intensive, introduced students to the origins of Hispanic culture and opened up a discussion on the birth of human rights. We examined causes of poverty and revolutions while focusing on individuals or organizations that work to resist and fight injustices in their world.


In early January, we were elated at the opportunity to travel to Colombia, integrating for the first time our Global Link cultural immersion program in Barranquilla with our curriculum-based intensive. In country, our students were able to learn first hand from those Colombian communities that often find themselves on the margins of society.  It was important for our students to understand the country’s colonial past and the very real impact this legacy continues to have on the issues we were studying. Our students were particularly interested in the concerns of the Afro-Latin, Indigenous and LGBTQ+ communities, as well as the issues surrounding gender, religion, and the environment within a Colombian context.


It was thrilling to hear our students make connections on their own and reflect on how these topics are handled in our own cultural context. Three experiences stand out to us. First, our visit to the Museo del Caribe. Here, the effort students put into their Spanish studies in high school was rewarded. Exhibits on human rights, colonization, slavery and even the influence of Sephardic Judaism in Colombia were relevant and engaging, and expanded on what they already knew. The second was the many self-reflections on awkward, and sometimes challenging, conversations about topics of interest with our hosts from our partner school, Colegio San Jose. Lastly, and most enriching, was our visit to the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, San Basilio de Palenque. This community of 3,500 people is known as the oldest freed slave community in Latin America. Benkos Biohó escaped the Spaniards in 1599 and eventually signed a peace treaty with Spain in 1612.


This proud community continues their West African traditions through their language, food, music and dance, and they welcomed us with open arms. As our guide said, “it is a little piece of Africa in Latin America.” The stark socio-economic contrast between this community and Barranquilla did not go unnoticed by our students, and generated many interesting conversations within our group, and between our hosts and us.


There is no doubt in our minds that this experience will have a lasting impact on our students, and on us, and we are so grateful and proud of the support University Prep gave us in pursuing this course as one of the many inspiring offerings of our new Intensive term.

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