It’s not every day that community college students have the opportunity to fly across the country and into the Atlantic, but that’s exactly what is happening for 11 students involved in the AFFIRM and Umoja programs at San Jose City College and Evergreen Valley College. The students and several faculty members, headed by English professor Keenan Norris, embarked on a 12-day trip to Cuba on July 25.
Norris said the participating students went through a competitive process of interviewing, and the majority of the students selected for the adventure are eligible for honors classes and will receive units for completing the trip.
“One of the things we’re going to be visiting,” said Norris, “is the Urban Gardens that Cuba has been well known for since the fall of the Soviet Union. We’re going to be visiting that and co-ops. We will learn about Cuba’s medical system, which is ranked higher than the U.S. medical system. We have a number of students who are going into the medical profession either as nurses or doctors. We’re going to study Nicolas Guillen, a Harlem renaissance poet who has an arts and culture center created in his honor, where we will learn about art, culture, music and dance. We’re going to be sitting in on a number of lectures about the politics of the country as well. We look forward to having meaningful conversations and dialogue with the Cuban people about what they see as the benefits and negative aspects of the recent opening of their border to the U.S.”
All faculty and staff paid their own travel costs and donated additional trip funds, but the students only paid half of the entire trip cost out of pocket. The rest was raised through fundraisers. “We think that going to Cuba at this time in history – this momentous time with the change in relations –is an exciting, and special educational moment for our students, to providing them a hands-on experience that they couldn’t get anywhere else or any other way. It’s also providing this education to students for many of whom could not pay three, four or five thousand dollars, which is the typical cost for studying abroad. By them having to pay $1,200, we made this much more accessible.”
San Jose City College, August 4, 2015