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What is the Transcending Borders Leadership Program?

What is the Transcending Borders Leadership Program?

The Transcending Borders Student Leadership Program is an in-depth, cultural immersion program, where students live, work and study in a small mountain village in the Dominican Republic (DR). Students will be enrolled for 12 weeks in the ‘first’ or oldest University of the Americas – Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, earning 13 college credits. Founded in 1538, where Christopher Columbus first landed, where the first settlement of Europeans was established, where the first genocide of indigenous Americans occurred and where the first cohort of enslaved Africans were brought — and where the colonial arm first extended across the Americas this is the perfect place to study how these processes were rationalized, normalized and ultimately celebrated.

To turn the table on these practices, that is, to create vibrant, inclusive communities, students will be enrolled in the following four courses:

  • *  Education 221: At Empire’s End – Culture, Curriculum and Change
  • *  Sociology 330: Identity, Agency and Power
  • *  Art 150: Building Community through Public Art
  • *  Spanish (Levels I-V, depending on the students proficiency): Citizenship, Family and Community

The Transcending Borders courses are structured so that the community is our classroom, allowing students to develop a theoretical vision that is both meaningful and relevant. Incorporating a series of community dialogues with – women’s groups, campesinos, youth groups, Haitian immigrants, non-profits, community leaders and teachers – students explore the interconnections between the Dominican society and the US – highlighting the possibilities that we have within these spaces.

To realize these possibilities, there are community projects built into each course. Projects include a family literacy program organized within local schools, a curriculum development project in collaboration with US and DR schools and Universities, a social histories through art project, in collaboration with one of the largest art collectives in the Caribbean and an environmental justice project, working directly with local villages, developing water systems, sustainable farming, preservation of/and river clean-ups and reforestation. Through these projects students develop valuable leadership skills, maximizing their potential as well as those within the community.

To further develop this understanding students will reside in the same area where the community projects are located – experiencing life in a rural area as well as life in an urban area – living for six weeks in a small town, within the province of Las Hermanas Mirabal, a historically and culturally rich province, home to the Mirabal sisters, celebrated world-wide on November 25 through the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Considered to be the agricultural bread-basket of the DR, producing chocolate, yucca, plantains, bananas, sugar cane, rice and coffee, students will have the opportunity to also stay in a small mountain village where conditions are more rustic, with some families cooking over an open fire, using mosquito nets and in some houses when the electricity goes out (which happens daily), families use small lanterns.

In short, the host families are generous, open and have a richness of spirit and giving that has no price providing an authentic experience that allows students to be fully immersed in the culture and village. The homestays are a result of 25 years of experience living and working in this area, providing a unique opportunity to stay in homes where most foreigners rarely have a chance to visit, let alone have the opportunity to enter and then to be welcomed and treated as one of the family members.

Transcending Borders wants to make this program available to all students, regardless of income. In accordance with that mission, we offer a generous scholarship package of $4,000 to those who demonstrate an interest in developing leadership skills and have an interest in community and service. The full cost of the program is $10,600 but with the scholarship, one can participate for $6,600. That price includes 13 college credits, housing, three meals a day, transportation to and from airport on the day of arrival and departure, trip excursions during class instruction and medical insurance. Our goal is to host a diverse group of students from Universities across the country – because we whole-heartedly believe in developing critical leadership skills while providing a powerful academic program that fully immerses students in the local culture and community.