When we faced the challenge of preparing an age-appropriate curriculum for teenagers in Mexico, the first thing we did was to survey the youth about their interests and needs.
They said they wanted to know more about sports, their bodies and the physical changes they were facing, sexuality, and issues such as alcohol and drug abuse.
The staff in Mexico took this survey seriously and used the materials provided by the Global Ministry Center as a foundation. Ereth, a curricula specialist, tells us,
“We needed to use at least 40 percent of the Global Resource Curriculum so we could be aligned with all other countries for the adolescents’ programs the ministry supports around the globe.”
Teens will not only learn in age-appropriate classes, they will also practice other skills to become self-productive. Simultaneously, they are developing their character through service activities.
Ereth led the efforts to compile and contextualize the lessons into a national curriculum for Mexican youth. Now, after almost two years of implementation, she recalls,
“My major goal was to create a simple tool that could be used by the our staff and, simultaneously, be a tool that could reflect the outcomes we want to achieve with our teenagers.”
The next step was to train tutors how to use the new materials. Tutors were also taught how to monitor the teens’ progress by using report tools and a monitoring system the country office implemented.
Vasti is one of the many tutors the churches have assigned to serve their teenagers. She is young and enthusiastic, but she is also well prepared and committed.
She volunteers at the Hormiguitas (or “little ants”) Student Center in Tulancingo Hidalgo. Two groups of teenagers attend class every Saturday at this center.
They also come on weekdays to strengthen their skills at a vocational workshop.
The center now provides the teenagers baking, hair styling and cooking classes.
The boys did not like the idea of cooking or baking at first, but now that they are preparing special recipes, they feel proud to be able to serve their families a nice dinner or a good dessert.
Vasti has been working with the teenagers for four years now.
When she was growing up she wanted to teach young children, but she opted instead to teach junior high students.
“These students are my reason to be. When they open up and share their hearts with me, I start feeling a deeper love for them. I embrace them in my heart, and I start to understand their feelings and their pain. Then I start to understand what Compassion really means.
“Once they accept you as part of their group, you start living with them and become part of their world. Serving teenagers has also helped me and has given me a new purpose. Now I spend most of my free time reading and preparing the classes or Bible studies for the teens.”
Tutors like Vasti easily follow the standard curriculum structure. They have plenty of materials to share with their teens and several teenagers have especially benefited from it.
Like Josué. Josué is a shy teen.
He is quiet, reflective and thoughtful. He now knows about the dangers of using drugs and is convinced to stay away from them.
He lived in a very dangerous environment when he was a child because his father raised him around people who used drugs.
“I like to come to these classes because I have fun and it is entertaining. Now I am sure that I will not use alcohol or drugs.
“I used to be confused; I didn’t know if it was really bad to use them.
“Through the talks, my tutor made me think about it, and according to what I now know, it is not OK with God.”
Diana is a teen who has been attending the program for four years.
She comes from a very difficult background and has had to work at a sewing shop in order to help her large family cover expenses while her father recovers from a stabbing.
Diana went through very difficult times growing up. She was horribly shy and didn’t talk much.
Because she didn’t want to call any attention to herself, she didn’t try to look neat or fix her hair.
But the new curriculum and the teachers gradually helped her to feel more comfortable, and when she felt safe in class, she began to participate for the first time.
She was also comforted when she learned more about puberty and the fact that she was changing normally and becoming a teenager.
She had to find her value, but she is now able to relate to others in a safe environment.
Although Diana had to miss one school year, she is now back in the classroom and content. She says that the most interesting class she heard was about sexuality,
“I like the way Vasti, our tutor, and the other teachers talk to us. They explain everything very well.
“I didn’t know what to think about many issues, but I liked the fact they talked about sexuality. Now I know I have a choice and I have decided to wait to have sex.”
This new curriculum includes the regular subjects that most teenagers want to learn about, but it also addresses their more personal questions. So far, the program has seen good results because teenagers have improved their attendance.
This new training offered at the child development centers will benefit our teens and give them tools to succeed. Along with learning, each teenager develops “a plan for tomorrow,” which is a long-term plan for their future, including goals and aspirations, activities, and milestones to keep them focused.
Alluding to Daniel 1:20, Vasti tells us,
“I want to see teenagers who live successful lives, work in good career fields, and are fruitful in every way. I want to see fulfilled youth who are ten times better than the rest.”
“And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.” — Daniel 1:20, NKJV