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Colleen McNamara

President Board of Directors

Vieques Conservation & Historical Trust

When ranking school systems throughout the United States and its territories, Puerto Rico is ranked at the bottom of the list. The schools on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico are at the very bottom of Puerto Rico’s list, which places us at the very bottom of the entire US educational system’s food chain.

Generations of students have grown up in this community with a long history of abuse and neglect by government and agencies. Given this state of abandonment, the active participation by the Vieques community, NGOs, volunteers and donors is crucial to the advancement of education in Vieques.

Juntos is one of the NGOs that has successfully developed and implemented a groundbreaking education program that is making a huge difference in the lives of many children and their families here in Vieques.

This humane education program encourages cognitive, affective, and behavioral growth through personal development of critical thinking, problem solving, perspective taking, and empathy as it relates to people, animals, the planet, and the intersections among them.

It took time for the schools to bring Juntos into their classrooms, but once they did, it has grown into a sought-after addition to most of our school’s curriculum. As an avid supporter of Juntos since its inception, I see firsthand the difference it is making.

I have been involved with the Trust’s environmental education program for over 20 years. Last summer (2019) when we were doing the standard orientation for newcomers to our summer program for children ages 5-8, we were all particularly impressed as to how much knowledge the kids already had about the concepts of reuse, reduce, recycle as well as their innate respect for nature. That’s because most of these kids had been spending time in the classroom with the Juntos teacher. It’s amazing how much of an impact having this program in the schools is making.

I firmly believe that education is the key to making our world a more livable place, where our future seems less dire than our present reality would suggest. Juntos and its program is one of the critical tools we need to make this possible.

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