Early last year, Lee Keylock, then a teacher at Newtown High School in Connecticut, and Robert (Bob) Sacksteder, an English teacher at the American School of Tampico, Mexico (ATS) met for lunch at a conference in Louisville, KY. Bob explained that Mexico has a land mass about three times the size of Texas and a population of over 100 million people. Tourists from around the world are attracted to its coastlines, archaeological sites, snow-capped mountains, volcanoes, rain forests and coral reefs.
Bob went on to talk about the darker side of the country: governmental corruption, drug cartels, illegal immigration and extreme poverty. The students at ATS had witnessed extreme violence: corpses hanging from bridges, people being gunned down in the streets, kidnappings and beatings. Of course, they had also experienced what all teenagers do: the rejection of peers, the confusion of divorce, the excitement of love, the complexity of friendships and the frustration of rules imposed on them by parents and teachers.
Lee and Bob decided to try a Narrative 4 story exchange. Students from Newtown were paired with teens from ATS through a series of virtual story exchanges. ATS students were determined to show their American partners that many of the stereotypes they bear are not true. One student remarked that, “not all Mexicans wear sombreros and serapes.” Another said, “Not all Mexicans are narcos and want to leave Mexico.” Likewise, students from Newtown explained that they were more than the devastating story that often defines them and their town.
It was exciting to watch the stories unfold and how individual narratives helped each participant understand that he or she is not alone, that the troubles are not local and that each has a path in this often dangerous, but always beautiful world.
We are proud that ATS students Karla Monroy and Carla Domingo continue to lead the way in Tampico. They are pioneers in the evolving Narrative 4 Mexico. We hope you will take the time to get to know our leaders of Narrative 4 Mexico.