Creativity, Technology, Opportunity and Alligators

As the school year begins in the US, students in El Salvador are into their last 6 weeks of classes.  September brings a focus on history and patriotism.  October is the month of the child.  November is graduation month.  For older students, these last months of school are filled with many special celebrations which makes it even more challenging to complete group projects, present graduation projects and theses, pass examinations and secure good evaluations.

The parades and cultural events are super fun.  The students are nervous but love seeing the photos of themselves and their friends in costumes, dancing, making music and marching.  Sometimes I am frustrated by the amount of time these events take away from coursework (at all levels).  As a former teacher, for me, it is a greater honor to receive an invitation to share in special, end-of-school-year scholastic events with Salvadoran families.  Proud parents are truly joyful when guests from their sister church can see first-hand the accomplishments of their children.
Opening assembly for incoming students
Today we went to a Technical Industrial High School with a very proud dad and his son.  It was registration day for next year's incoming class, and the graduating seniors were on sight to share their final projects with the new students and their parents.  We had a great time walking around campus, checking out the different teaching areas, and most of all, talking with students about their projects.

Students in the automotive mechanics course building
small racers for a competition.
The few hours we spent engaged in conversation with tech students was really energizing.  The young people we met were very professional in presenting their projects.  We went from group to group, asking questions (and my husband who is kind of a techno-nerd asked some great questions).  These kids were up for the challenge!  Even when they encountered glitches, the kids handled themselves very well.

Students in this group developed a cool phone app for controlling the car.
Don't want to say too much - this idea has serious marketing potential.
An award-winning project for a sophisticated
security system. 
One word to describe this school visit:  impressive.  We asked the staff and our guide about employment opportunities.  The top students in the classes receive invitations to work at businesses that have relationships with the school.  Several students work half days and study half days (which is not typical of Salvadoran high school students). Given that multiple generations of families have sacrificed much in order for their children to attend this school, it seems like the results for continued education and employment are good.

Industrial arts machines
The school mascot is the alligator.  And, sort of surprisingly, the school keeps 2 live alligators as mascots!  The mascots have lived in the school courtyard since at least 1968.  Apparently the alligators are a big help with discipline at the school.  Normally, they just wallow in the mud or sun themselves in the grass.  However, if a couple of students are disagreeing with one another and tension is heating up, the alligators sense this and they start growling and making a fuss! 

If you look very carefully, you can see an alligator in the
grass near the yellow plant.

The school mascot is very prominently displayed at the entrance.
We observed that while boys still outnumber girls in the school, many of the project groups were led by girls.  In a country in which there is much discrimination against women in the workplace, it was heartening to see boys and girls working well together and girls taking on leadership roles in the work and presentations.

For security reasons, I do not include faces of students.

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