“Employment Center in Mexico Helping Students Achieve,” Ensign, Oct. 2003, 77
Students in Mexico cannot afford to take lightly the opportunity to attend post-secondary school. Space is limited in public high schools, called “preparatory schools”—la escuela preparatoria or la prepa—and students have to take tough entrance exams to get in, a necessary step if they want to go on to a university later.
But a program available through the Church’s Employment Resource Center in Monterrey, Mexico, is helping Latter-day Saint students pass the exams with a high rate of success. And that is all part of fulfilling the center’s mission, says its director.
“Our primary purposes are to help place people in jobs, to prepare them to get better jobs, or to help them create their own jobs,” says the center’s director, Francisco Gámez. And the center is obviously doing things right. In the first trimester of 2003, it had 2,750 job placements—nearly 128 percent of its established goal.
But job placement addresses only one element of employment challenges in Mexico. “The greatest employment problem for the country is [lack of] education,” says Brother Gámez. Many people struggle to gain the education they need to get a well-paying job or improve their circumstances. So in addition to its regular services, the Monterrey center offers educational help in two significant ways. The first is an exam tutoring program for young students, and the second is a program for adults who did not have similar educational opportunities in their youth.
The center works from the assumption that helping students gain an education early on will head off future employment problems, and tutoring for the preparatoria entrance exams is an effective way to help. One stake has been using the tutoring program for seven years now, and during that time period 97 percent of the students who went through the program passed their preparatoria tests.
For those who did not have full opportunities for education when they were young, the Monterrey center has developed, in cooperation with a government agency—the National Institute for the Education of Adults (Instituto Nacional para la Educación de los Adultos)—a program to help adult Mexicans complete the equivalent of a high school education. Three things were required to get it underway: potential students, places to hold the classes, and qualified instructors. The Church meets part of the first need and all of the second. Many students are Church members, who may also refer friends or neighbors to the program, and classes are held in Church meetinghouses. The government meets the third need by certifying qualified instructors recruited by the Church.
As with all of the employment center’s services, no distinction is made between Church members and others when it comes to providing services. The educational program is open to anyone prepared to take advantage of it.
“This program blessed the lives of some 1,200 people during 2002,” Brother Gámez says. Some students, including a few stake presidents who had never had the opportunity to complete secondary school, enrolled with tears of gratitude in their eyes, he says. And the example of these adults seems to have an effect on young members of their families faced with the choice of going on to the preparatoria; many seem to be taking the choice more seriously.