Two CCCC officials learn more about Mexican life
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Central Carolina Community College's Jon Spoon (right) looks over the food offerings at one location ... (more)
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Central Carolina Community College's Dr. Pamela Senegal (right) is pictured with Adriana Jimenez Cortes ... (more)
PITTSBORO -- Two Central Carolina Community College officials - Dr. Pamela Senegal and Jon Spoon - recently joined community leaders from Chatham and Randolph counties to learn more about the Hispanic community.
The program, coordinated by the University of North Carolina's Center for International Understanding, included a trip to Mexico. The Center for International Understanding optimizes North Carolina's global engagement by supporting the development and alignment of globally connected educational, economic, and community opportunities, according to Stephanie Caplan, the Center's Communications Director. CIU is a program of The University of North Carolina system and was established 35 years ago.
The eight-day study immersion program provided an opportunity to learn more extensively about Mexican life and culture, thereby allowing these community leaders to better serve the Mexican and broader Hispanic communities at home.
"We were presented with as broad a spectrum of Mexican life as could be imagined. This was a truly transformative experience," said Spoon, CCCC's Small Business Center Director in Chatham County.
Dr. Senegal, CCCC's Vice President of Economic and Community Development, noted, "Having the opportunity to connect with Chatham and Randolph officials as we got to see firsthand some of the conditions that drive immigration from Mexico to our communities, I don't think that one person was unaffected with a deeper level of understanding and appreciation for just how complex this issue is -- for both countries."
The 15-member Chatham and Randolph County delegation traveled to Mexico City, Mineral de Pozos, and Guanajuato to study the social, historical, and cultural context of Mexico.
Spoon said the differences were greater than he anticipated and commonalities so essential he was surprised to have never noticed them before. "I was amazed by the spirit and vitality of the place," said Spoon. "It was a tremendous amount to process all at once, but I am confident that we will be able to take what we learned and use it to better our communities here."
Caplan said that by having the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture of the residents they serve, CIU's Latino Initiative participants are better equipped to understand the challenges and strengths of North Carolina's Latino and Hispanic immigrant communities. "County teams of government, education, health, business, and law enforcement leaders build relationships and strategies to better integrate Latinos into their communities," she said.
Spoon said that the common theme among the group was the need to make existing services better known within the community. "The goal is to use our newly expanded cultural understanding to find ways to help the Hispanic community become more civically involved," said Spoon. "Everywhere in Mexico, I saw strong, community driven efforts to better the lives of the people living there. The ultimate goal of this program is to foster an understanding and willingness to cooperate whereby the Hispanic community feels comfortable to engage and help build a cultural identity for our area."
Understanding the prevalence of the informal economy in Mexico was a big revelation for Spoon. "Small business owners coming from Mexico would never have dealt with the level of regulation and taxation to which we are accustomed. I hope to develop some training to explain the basic regulatory requirements for operating a business," said Spoon. "I think there is probably a sizable community that would like to open or grow their business, but are worried that they are not in compliance with all the regulatory agencies.
"I also learned some more effective ways of handling outreach and planning for future programs. I saw some tremendous models for community projects that could be effective here. Mainly, I learned that there is a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit in Mexico and I will be continually looking for ways to make that spirit come to fruition here in Chatham County," said Spoon.
Spoon said the trip was an eye-opening experience. "It would be impossible for anyone to get a complete understanding of a large and diverse Hispanic community with one week in Mexico, but it was the best cultural awareness booster shot I could have imagined," he said. "The Center for International Understanding did a phenomenal job structuring the trip to be as insightful and fulfilling as possible."
The Mexico program was paid for with grant funding from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and the Oak Foundation.
To learn more about the 2015 Latino Initiative program, visit http://ciu.northcarolina.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/06
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