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Media Advisory

Not for publication

Sept. 29, 2004 -- No. 464

4 p.m. Thursday Sept. 30
IMAX Theatre at Exploris
201 E. Hargett St., Raleigh

Donor, foundation, UNC-Duke consortium
to start scholarships for Mexican children

Board members of a new, Chapel Hill-based foundation, plus educators and students of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, will announce a new scholarship program for children in a disadvantaged village in Mexico.

Durham lawyer Miguel G. Paredes of the Chapel Hill firm Paredes & Strauss recently formed the Purple Foundation, which established an endowment for the scholarships with a donation to the Consortium in Latin American Studies -- a program of both universities. The foundation aims to advance international human rights for women and children through education, the arts, political participation and economic empowerment.

The scholarships will be administered by the consortium’s Yucatec Maya Language and Culture Program, which each summer takes about 20 U.S. college students to the village of Xocan (SHO-can) in Yucatan, Mexico, for six weeks of immersion in the Yucatec Maya language. Students live with village families.

Sharon Mujica, director of outreach for the consortium and of the Maya language immersion program, will present a slide show and talk about the village, its people and the Yucatec Mayan culture. Also present will be the donor, Paredes; local students who have taken the language immersion program; and directors of the Institute of Latin American Studies at UNC and the Duke Center for Latin American Studies.

Mujica has led the annual trip for 14 years. She observed that the village children could not continue their schooling past elementary level. The village does not have a higher school, and children lack money for transportation, books and clothes to attend the closest school. Their only options are to work in the failing local agriculture industry or leave the area to find unskilled jobs. "It broke my heart," she said, "and without those people, we wouldn’t have our program."

The first scholarship, to be given next year to one child, will be about $400, Mujica said, "but we hope to build up the program and offer more scholarships."

The summer immersion program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education to teach less commonly taught languages of the world and one of about a dozen to teach languages of Latin America. Yucatec Maya is spoken by more than a million people in Mexico, Belize and northern Guatamala, Mujica said.

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Contact: Sharon Mujica, 962-2414,