Deficiencies in the System of Special Education in Puerto Rico

By Krystal R. Martinez Souchet

April 23, 2009

There are numerous problems in Puerto Rico’s educational system. The lack of materials, teachers, staff, and services seems to be the norm in many schools. The program of special education is not the exception. Although is established that each child has the right to receive an education of quality to learn the concepts that will help him succeed, this not always accomplished.

According to the Law for the Education of Individuals with Incapacities (IDEA), the special education program consists in a special training designed to fulfill the unique needs of students with disabilities. Approximately 88 thousand children receive special education in public schools, according to tendenciaspr.com. Miriam Souchet, an elementary school teacher in the school Adolfo Grana Rivera School in Peñuelas, recognizes the existence of problems in the special education area. Souchet mentions that the absence of technological attendance constitutes a great obstacle to provide a good education. The lack of materials like photocopiers, books, computers, and recorders constitutes a problem for students that without the necessary equipment cannot receive an appropriate education. However, Souchet recognizes that the acquisition of scholastic materials is faster and easier that what it used to be, but sometimes materials need to be adapted for students with more severe impediments.

Another main obstacle pointed by Souchet is the excess of administrative work. The time that is invested dealing with papers and forms could be used in providing a better education. It is difficult to maintain a balance between taking care of students and fulfill administrative tasks.

She mentioned that the area in special education that has a greater student population is the one of learning problems. During the past years she has observe an increase in the number of parents who ask for special education for their children. “Years ago most parents were skeptical about the program, but nowadays the number of parents that are interested in receive some type of special education for their children has increased”.

Ana Castro, a supervisor of Special Education in the Humacao Region, agrees that schools confront many difficulties to provide the services that students with disabilities require. She mentions how the inappropriate physical facilities inhibit the capacity of offering alternatives of location and mobility for some students.

In terms of integrated education Castro states the example of a group of regular students in which more than five students of special education are present in the class.  In this case it becomes very hard to provide an individualized aid and adapt the material for each of them. “It’s necessary to remember that students with disabilities are in disadvantage compared with regular students”. Special education students are the ones that suffer the consequences when regular teachers do not pay the necessary attention to their special education needs. Even their grades are not as good as they could be, and as a result many problems arise.

The deficiencies in the program of special education affect greatly the academic progress of the students. The supervisor recognizes that during the past years special education has improved, but there is much that still needs to be done. One of the improvements has been the requirement of academic credits in special education for all teachers regardless of their specialization area. Before this requirement, there was a lot of discrimination towards the students of special education, perhaps by ignorance. Nowadays discrimination still exists, and it is observed when regular teachers are required to provide necessary arrangements for students with special education. Some regular teachers consider these necessary arrangements as a task that takes an additional time and effort.

Castro considers that there is a necessity of more teachers capable of attending students with more severe impediments. Problems like autism, emotional disturbances, and blindness are hard to treat because some teachers are not prepared to attend such cases.

As recommendations to improve the special education both interviewees agree that a more rigorous training to regular teachers will help them offer more aid to special education students. An additional resource for regular teachers with many students of special education in a classroom is another option. This would help improve the negative attitude of some regular teachers towards special education students and the arrangements they have to do with them. Another recommendation is to strictly follow the requirement of scholastic organization that states the priority of assigning classrooms must begin with the special education program, something that rarely happens. However, both of them agree that the education of a student is a responsibility that belongs not only to teachers and school; parents need to be present and show interest for their child’s education.

Both educators agree that if we compared the special education of 50 years ago with the present one, it has improved much. There was a time when the majority of people with special needs did not receive any kind of free education. As Souchet mentions, even though the many obstacles that these students confront, many students still succeed.

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A Unique College Experience: The Zoo

By:  Pedro Juan Vázquez

Eighty-six percent of students at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez (UPRM) have never been to the Zoo of Mayaguez. And, out of the fourteen percent that have been to the zoo, nine percent went on high-school field trips, announced a recent poll done by me.

The zoo is a major attraction for kids from elementary schools all over Puerto Rico, announced eyetour, a tourism company from Puerto Rico, but students from the UPRM  rarely visit the zoo. Efrain Vassallo, an intern working with mammals in the zoo states, “students from the UPRM don’t know what they have here.”

A recent poll, done by me, states that 92 percent of the students do not know what animals are in the zoo or what day the zoo is open. “The zoo has no promotion and I don’t think there are any exciting animals there,” stated Gabriel Vidal, a UPRM student.

But, the zoo has an extensive collection of animals from Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico. Animals that are native from Puerto Rico are the guaraguao and the múcaro sabanero. The zoo contains over 600 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and arthropods, as well as new facilities.

Recent additions to the zoo include an aviary, arthropodary, and a butterfly exhibition, as well as an insect museum. At the aviary, a large area enclosed by netting, visitors are able to walk among the birds along a raised pathway. The zoo also has a similar exhibit where butterflies fly freely and perch on lucky visitors.

“Despite these new additions, the big animals are the biggest attraction in the zoo,” said Vassallo, especially “Mundi, the elephant.” Other large animals seen in the zoo are hippos, rhinos, leopards, snakes, monkeys and tigers.

On March 2008 the zoo acquired two new giraffes and two desert warthogs to enforce the African collection. The animals were brought from Ohio and Louisiana. The new giraffes were brought after all three previous ones died. There was a couple, Princess the female and Baxter the male but the female died after giving birth to the first giraffe born in Puerto Rico, Twiga. Tw`iga later died after being injured in her neck by her father. Baxter died a year later.

Even though these deaths made the zoo get severely criticized for the condition and the handling of some animals by the news paper, El Nuevo Dia, the zoo is extremely compromised with animal welfare, especially those facing extinction.

They have conservation programs for the following species: the Puerto Rican Crested Toad, the Paloma Sabanera, and the Andean Condor.

Time Magazine’s article, “The New Age of Extinction” announces that “the conservation of animal life is more essential now than ever. We may have entered what will be the planet’s sixth great extinction wave. And this time the cause isn’t an errant asteroid or megavolcanoes. It’s us, and we need to change.”

The zoo is helping to make a change by promoting conservation efforts. It has started an adoption program in which citizens can “adopt” one of the zoo’s animals, and donate to contribute in conservation efforts.

Other services that are included are educational programs and conservation programs for local species, including a marine mammal rescue hospital. This initiative guarantees rescued animals, such as a two month old baby manatee who was rescued and then put back in its natural habitat.

The mission of protection and preservation all throughout its facilities is one of the zoo’s mottos. And animals, “considered as much guests to the zoo as humans,” stated Vassallo are treated with respect and love so that visitors can do the same.

This program started with Dr. Juan A. Rivero, the person who founded the zoo in 1954 and the person who the zoo is named after.

Dr. Rivero was born on March 5, 1923. He obtained a Bachelor of Science in Agronomy from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez in 1945. In 1951 he obtained an M.S. from Harvard University, followed by a Ph.D. from that same institution in 1953.

He became a full Professor of Biology at UPR-Mayagüez in 1958. From 1959 to 1960 he served as director of the Biology Department and from 1962 to 1966, as Dean of Arts and Sciences. Then he served as a Research Associate at Harvard University and Visiting Scientist at the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Investigation.

In addition  Dr. Rivero has discovered over a hundred animal species, particularly amphibians and reptiles, many of which were named in his honor, including:

–          Hemitrochus riveroi Tuner (molluses)

–          Glomiredismus riveroi Chamberlin (miriapod)

–          Atractus riveroi (snake)

–          Hyla riveroi Cochran and Going (frog)

–          Processa riveroi Manning & Chace (crustacean)

He was the founder and first president of the Puerto Rico Zoological Society, as well as of the Association of Island Marine Laboratories. In addition to writing over 200 papers and articles, he has written numerous books, including:

–          El Coquí Dorado de Puerto Rico y otras Ranas de Hábitos Reproductivos Peculiares

–          Anfibios y Reptiles de Puerto Rico

–          Principios de Evolución Orgánica

–          Los Helechos Cuernos de Alce o Platicerios

–          Expedición de la UPR a las Selvas del Alto Orinoco 1950

The Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo is the only one in Puerto Rico and is full of history and different animals, which you can only see in this zoo. Some animals in the zoo are close to be extinct and this may be the last time you can see them, so support, learn, and attend the zoo.

Additional Info:

Schedule: Wednesday – Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Price: $6.00 for college student.

Ups and Downs in a Teaching Career: NanVan Unlocks the Secret to Her Success

April 28, 2009

By- Wendy E. Maldonado Hayes

Format- Personality Feature Story

Ender pics032 Most of our UPRM English professors have been there and done that!

The English Department stands out for the diversity of its faculty  members and their individual achievements as professionals. Each year more professors come prepared with a PhD, but also come to set a new learning path for their students.

Some may believe that English professors were once the nerdy students who spent their free time in the library. This English professor stereotype is not the case of Prof. Nancy Vanessa Vicente, better known among her friends and students as NanVan.

She was wearing a slim gray ash dress and black high heels, big loopy earrings and a suave rose smile when she welcomed me into her office. I was ready to listen to the story of how she loved to read and always wanted to become a teacher. As I sat in a chair by her desk, and tested my tape recorder I noticed pictures that warmed up her office. She is clearly into pop culture; her office is decorated with posters of super woman and other heroes.

After introductory comments we were down to business and the question was, how did she become the professor she is today?

Ender pics031Ender pics029hocus pocus

Born and raised in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico NanVan always wanted to be an actress. Growing up in the 70’s there was no cable television or Internet. Her father knew the importance of learning a second language and was determined to teach her. She and her brother were persuaded by their father, “He would make us watch shows and listen to them in English. That was how I really got into the language.” Formal schooling in La Inmaculada completed her daily English lessons. Soon enough it was her favorite subject. After this success, her first experience was becoming the family translator, as she explained the Sunday movie to her family. This was the first time everyone started seeing her future profession, “that was when my family began to say that I should become a teacher. I was like, are you crazy?”

As a junior high school student the teacher could always rely on her assistance. “I helped her grade and watching my peers while they were taking exams.”  But once in her senior year she had to make a decision, she said in the class yearbook she wanted to be a translator. During her childhood and adolescence she was a very shy girl with an inner passion for the theatre that was about to die out. Acting was not an easy profession and her parents could not afford to send her to acting school. After graduation she came to UPRM to study nursing fulfilling to her parent’s wishes that she stayed close to home. Dealing with patients, hospitals and even blood and sicknesses did not turn her away from this opportunity because she cared for people. But she had spent her whole life caring for everyone but herself and her dreams were set aside. During her second year she was done being the nice girl. “I went to my mom and said “here, la baja total, I’m out of here. And here’s the ticket, I’m leaving.” She moved in with her godparents in Texas, running away from any constraints, but she could not run away from the decision she had to make. This dramatic situation marked her forever.

This decision took courage but also led to the discovery of who she was and wanted in life. She wanted to become anything that would allow her to break free from the restrictions she was submitted to as a child. “I was very shy and for me challenging an authority was wrong,” she said. This state of mind turned around. Once she found her inner strength there was no going back. It was time to make some dreams come true.

She became interested in becoming a flight attendant, but victory was not yet to come. Many airlines rejected her application because she was young. Was coming back to PR an option? “So, I came back defeated in that sense, my parents were not pushing me,” she stated. Another decision had to be made; her anger became her power to overcome this experience.

Entering the workforce in the Mayagüez Mall seemed fun. But this job brought her back to the university. In the store she was mistreated and this made her reflect: “I should go back to college” to finish was she had begun. Her parents helped her talk to the Dean of Arts and Sciences. “I still remember that her first name was Olga,” recalled NanVan still appreciating her help. She took NanVan’s transcript and recommended her to the English Department. It was the only class she had excelled in and she was happy to have the opportunity.

Her first goal was accomplished in 1990, when she finally completed her bachelor’s degree in English. She never wanted to be a teacher… but this was her first job. If she made it through all the adversities, teaching was a new challenge. Her energy, passion and nonconformist personality led her to strive for better by entering the English master’s program in UPRM. She continued working as a fixed term professor. Her colleagues motivated her to achieve her PhD at Penn State University in 2003. It was away from home where she discovered herself as a Puerto Rican and also as a feminist.

divaHer doctoral studies were based on decolonizing methodologies, Latino studies and feminism. These studies took her to discover a side of herself she never knew. “I never thought of myself as a feminist,” she added. This empowered and fed her aspirations to give back to PR the best she can offer. She returned to UPRM in January 2009.

The greatest outcome of her PhD was reaffirming her identity. Her job here in UPRM is not only teaching a course and conducting research. It’s a motivation in her life to help students find their way, as she found hers. If you are ever around the third floor of the Chardón Building and ever lucky enough to have her as a professor, you will never see the world with the same eyes again. You will see it through the eyes of a DIVA!

Tree Huggers trying to reconnect us with our natural world

By: Yolián Amaro Rivera

Mother Earth is the only one that has a birthday every day, but not everybody knows it! Instead of celebrating her day and giving her a gift, some persons give her contamination and pollution.

Thankfully there are other people who value her and are trying to share their love for Mother Earth. An example of these people are Campus Verde, an initiative by students, professors and staff of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez (UPRM) that are making a huge effort to raise awareness about the importance of living in harmony with the environment in a responsible and healthy way. Let’s say I’ll like to join Campus Verde to help Mother Earth. Where can I find information about this initiative?

Everyone identifies her office as the only door, at the Stefani building, with a plant in the front. She is Dr. Sandra Cruz Pol, Professor of the Dept. of Electrical Engineering and the Coordinator of Campus Verde. Just as if it were a tree, she has seen this organization grow for over a decade.

The Campus Verde initiative began in September 1997. Its purpose since then has been to transform the UPRM campus into a greener one, and not painting it green, but making it a more eco-friendly place. In May 2008, Prof. Cruz Pol started organizing a student association to accompany Campus Verde’s seven green resolutions: transportation, reduce-reuse-recycle, energy conservation and efficiency, nature, purchasing recommendations, education and outreach, and water conservation. This student organization was created with plans of reaching out to students. Its goal is to get in touch with the community through different events and educate students about global warming and how everyone can be more eco-friendly.

Many students come to Dr. Cruz Pol’s office interested on joining Campus Verde because of the activities that are organized at campus. The cool thing is that you don’t need to fill any papers or pay a membership to join this exciting group called Campus Verde. The only requirement is to have the interest of helping the planet.

Campus Verde Logo

Campus Verde Logo

You might be asking, ‘what am I going to do if I decide to join Campus Verde?’ Marinés Montes, president of Campus Verde Students, said that the students that form part of the association have many responsibilities amongst their peers and within their communities. They are expected to help educate the community about the environment, the harmful effects of global warming and the ways to prevent it. She mentioned that sometimes its difficult to divide the time between classes and Campus Verde activities, but she also assures that with organization it can be handled. She carries a peculiar calendar were she writes down her tests, projects, holidays and Campus Verde’s activities to make sure none of them are in conflict. Ms. Montes also delegates responsibilities amongst the council and the members. By delegating tasks to others, she says, more activities can be done. She always keeps in touch with different leaders to make sure that the work is getting done.

They had many activities this year such as the Feria Orgánica, where various farmers and restaurants sold organic and local products. Also, the 3rd Simposio Eco-Conciencia Colegial was successfully completed in April. There they had six speakers who educated students and faculty on various “green” subjects, such as the government’s relationship with the environment and “green building”. These events, along with others such as beach cleanups, trivia, games, movies, concerts, surveys, sales and various educational seminars, have been part of their strategies to educate the community.

However, not everything has been easy for these green thinkers. Dr. Cruz Pol said the biggest obstacle Campus Verde has faced is “people’s resistance to change.” She said that some people misuse the resources and still don’t understand the impact it has on the planet. Dr. Cruz Pol also indicated that they want to make everyone keep in mind the fact that they must recycle, turn off unnecessary lights, take short baths and turn off the air conditioning when is not needed.

I asked Dr. Cuz Pol about her goals for Campus Verde in the next couple of years “I hope it will disappear,” she answered. “If the organization disappears is because is no longer going to be needed. This will mean that people have finally increased their awareness of environmental issues.” Marinés Montes said she believes that by reaching out to the university students and faculty, they are essentially reaching out to the entire island. “If everybody takes something that Campus Verde teaches and explains it to at least one other person, we will eventually have reached out to a much larger population,” she added.

Student loan in time of economic crisis

Picture provided by milkyourmoney.com
Picture provided by milkyourmoney.com

By: Noelia J. Méndez

The world is in time of economic crisis. Increasing our consumption of goods has become the way to rescue the economic of the world. That is part of the reasons why prices are increasing with time. Not just goods but services are each time more expensive. This has reached the educational services and the universities have being touch. Scholarships have being the way for private entities and government to help students and parents to student’s tuitions. But students have found other ways to help themselves pay for their tuitions and student life. In an interview with Nancy González, financial aid assistance for the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez Campus, she explains us what was student loans are and the different types of loans that exist. Student loans are loans offered to students to assist in payment of the costs of professional education. These loans usually carry a lower interest rate than other loans and are usually issued by the government. Student loans come in several varieties in the United States: • Federal student loans made to students directly: No payments while enrolled in at least half time status. If a student drops below half time status, the account will go into its six month grace period. A grace period is a time given to the student by the bank after graduation. During this period borrowers don’t have to make payments on the loan and they will not be penalized. If the student re-enrolls in at least half time status, the loans will be deferred, but when he/she drops below half time again, the grace period will end. Amounts of payments are quite limited as well. • Federal student loans made to parents: Much higher limit, but payments start immediately. Students are categorized by the year at school. A sophomore will get the minimum amount of loan money. As the student continues to advance in college the loan limit increases. Students with five years of college or more will qualify for maximum amount. • Private student loans made to students or parents: Higher limits and no payments until after graduation, although interest will start to accrue immediately. Private loans may be used for any education related expenses such as tuition, room and board, books, computers, and past due balances. Private loans can also be used to supplement federal student loans, when federal loans, grants and other forms of financial aid are not sufficient to cover the full cost of higher education. Student loans are really easy to get, applications are available on the Internet or on campus at the Financial Aid Offices. There are different limits for each type of loan and year of study. Almost every student who applies for loans receives it. In an interview with Carsen Ott, an exchange student at UPRM, she explains that it was very easy to have the needed applications and requirements to take a student loan. Ott noted that student loans are not the option students have to pay their college expenses; but they can also work. Students who work generally take 12 credits or less or work after hours or on weekends. Students who work dedicate less time to their studies. Private loans are loans that are not guaranteed by a government agency and are made to students by banks or finance companies. Private loans generally come in two types: school-channel and direct-to-consumer. School-channel loans offer borrowers lower interest rates but generally take longer to process. They are ‘certified’ by the school, which means the school signs off on the borrowing amount, and the funds for school-channel loans are disbursed directly to the school. Direct-to-consumer private loans are not certified by the school. The student simply supplies enrollment verification to the lender, and the loan proceeds are disbursed directly to the student. While direct-to-consumer loans generally carry higher interest rates than school-channel loans, they do allow families to get access to funds very quickly. After all these said in research at tendenciaspr.com from 2006 to 2007 students’ loans have increased in a 4.68 percent. As a matter of fact the UPRM tuition has changed for the past five years from additional fees to higher credit prices. Students have found in loans a way to have money to spend not just on their tuitions but also on their lifestyles. It is harder for a person not to buy something than find a way to get the money to buy it. Consumption is general, for goods and services, have increased a 5.78 percent since 1992. Beatriz de Jesús, UPRM student, took her first student loan of 5,000 to buy a car. At first her intention was to use the money to buy a used car but then the group pressure changed her mind and she used the money for the starter for a new car. Another student Daysi Orsini has taken tow student loan in five years at the UPRM. Her debt is around $12,000. Her fist loan she took it to pay her tuition and buy a laptop and books, but her second she took it to go to Europe on a college trip. Ott, an exchange student from the University of Minnesota has taken several loans private and federal. Her debt is higher than de Jesús and Orsini, but all her loans have being to pay her tuition. She is very concern about loan debt and she don´t used that money to buy another things.

Deficiencies in the System of Special Education in Puerto Rico

Students with special needs not always receive the education they deserve

Students with special needs not always receive the education they deserve

By Krystal R. Martinez Souchet

April 23, 2009

There are numerous problems in Puerto Rico’s educational system. The lack of materials, teachers, staff, and services seems to be the norm in many schools. The program of special education is not the exception. Although is established that each child has the right to receive an education of quality to learn the concepts that will help him succeed, this not always accomplished.

According to the Law for the Education of Individuals with Incapacities (IDEA), the special education program consists in a special training designed to fulfill the unique needs of students with disabilities. Approximately 88 thousand children receive special education in public schools, according to tendenciaspr.com. Miriam Souchet, an elementary school teacher in the school Adolfo Grana Rivera School in Peñuelas, recognizes the existence of problems in the special education area. Souchet mentions that the absence of technological attendance constitutes a great obstacle to provide a good education. The lack of materials like photocopiers, books, computers, and recorders constitutes a problem for students that without the necessary equipment cannot receive an appropriate education. However, Souchet recognizes that the acquisition of scholastic materials is faster and easier that what it used to be, but sometimes materials need to be adapted for students with more severe impediments.

Another main obstacle pointed by Souchet is the excess of administrative work. The time that is invested dealing with papers and forms could be used in providing a better education. It is difficult to maintain a balance between taking care of students and fulfill administrative tasks.

She mentioned that the area in special education that has a greater student population is the one of learning problems. During the past years she has observe an increase in the number of parents who ask for special education for their children. “Years ago most parents were skeptical about the program, but nowadays the number of parents that are interested in receive some type of special education for their children has increased”.

Ana Castro, a supervisor of Special Education in the Humacao Region, agrees that schools confront many difficulties to provide the services that students with disabilities require. She mentions how the inappropriate physical facilities inhibit the capacity of offering alternatives of location and mobility for some students.

In terms of integrated education Castro states the example of a group of regular students in which more than five students of special education are present in the class.  In this case it becomes very hard to provide an individualized aid and adapt the material for each of them. “It’s necessary to remember that students with disabilities are in disadvantage compared with regular students”. Special education students are the ones that suffer the consequences when regular teachers do not pay the necessary attention to their special education needs. Even their grades are not as good as they could be, and as a result many problems arise.

The deficiencies in the program of special education affect greatly the academic progress of the students. The supervisor recognizes that during the past years special education has improved, but there is much that still needs to be done. One of the improvements has been the requirement of academic credits in special education for all teachers regardless of their specialization area. Before this requirement, there was a lot of discrimination towards the students of special education, perhaps by ignorance. Nowadays discrimination still exists, and it is observed when regular teachers are required to provide necessary arrangements for students with special education. Some regular teachers consider these necessary arrangements as a task that takes an additional time and effort.

Castro considers that there is a necessity of more teachers capable of attending students with more severe impediments. Problems like autism, emotional disturbances, and blindness are hard to treat because some teachers are not prepared to attend such cases.

As recommendations to improve the special education both interviewees agree that a more rigorous training to regular teachers will help them offer more aid to special education students. An additional resource for regular teachers with many students of special education in a classroom is another option. This would help improve the negative attitude of some regular teachers towards special education students and the arrangements they have to do with them. Another recommendation is to strictly follow the requirement of scholastic organization that states the priority of assigning classrooms must begin with the special education program, something that rarely happens. However, both of them agree that the education of a student is a responsibility that belongs not only to teachers and school; parents need to be present and show interest for their child’s education.

Both educators agree that if we compared the special education of 50 years ago with the present one, it has improved much. There was a time when the majority of people with special needs did not receive any kind of free education. As Souchet mentions, even though the many obstacles that these students confront, many students still succeed.

Cinematheque’s Losing Battle

Cinematheque is run by students and presents rare films at no charge at UPRM

Cinematheque is run by students and presents rare films at no charge at UPRM

With more activities and gadgets competing for attention, students abandon the once favorite club
By: Astrid Sambolín

It was Monday night and I was at the Cueva de Tarzán. After a long day at Colegio (University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez), dropping by and relaxing with a movie didn’t seem like a bad idea.

I’d been to a couple of Cinematheque gatherings some years back and thought, “What the heck, I might as well go.” The group would get together and show rare films, afterwards answering questions and having a discussion. It seemed like a nice way to spend a Monday night.

Sadly, when I arrived at the appointed place I realized that very few people decided to take Cinematheque up on its offer. And by a few, I mean two. And by two, I mean Cinematheque coordinator Nelson de León and student Daryl Sánchez, who provided the movie. Trying to satisfy my curiosity in as polite a way as I could, I inquired if this was an off night for the group. It was not. Cinematheque hadn’t had an audience in quite a while. What happened?

Cinematheque used to be popular, with people from different backgrounds and a shared love for movies getting together to watch and critique films. It was something that was looked forward to. Now, the club seems to be drawing its last breath.

Cinematheque started as Cine Club Colegial in 1992. Back then, movies weren’t as accessible as they are today. There were no video stores and only one cinema showing six movies at a time. If you wanted to break the monotony and watch something other than what you already owned, you had to drive to the nearest Blockbuster in San Germán.

Dr. Mary Leonard, professor of the English Department and coordinator of the UPRM Film Certificate, had just arrived from New York and was accustomed to attending the many film related activities the city had to offer. Leonard thought it would be a good idea to set up a film club or something along those lines and was told that Hispanic Studies professor Raquel Lloreda and student Rafael Santos had talked about starting a similar project. Leonard joined them and the group started Cine Club Colegial.

Meetings would take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the former for the benefit of the students and the latter for the professors’. Methods for promoting the activity were very limited, with no Internet and email readily accessible. Graphics programs weren’t as common as they are now, so any promotion such as banners, flyers, etc. had to be done by hand. Santos was an engineering student and he would be in charge of this task.

“I remember him doing this sort of what probably today would look like this incredibly primitive banner and we put it in the end of the third floor right before you hit the stairs, we’d have this banner in the airduct like “Cine Club Colegial!” and we were so proud of it. At least he was,” Leonard laughingly recalled.

The club thrived, luring a very diverse demographic with the promise of free admission to films that weren’t your garden-variety, commercialized Hollywood movie. “Some of it was students, a number of people who came were professors and other people who were not from here, so we had people from Argentina, Europe, etc. We kind of formed this little group who was really into film and it felt sort of like a family,” Leonard recalled. The movie was only part of the attraction; the group dynamic was also an incentive.

The club would choose different people to present a film and most had very interesting things to say, whether about something they specialized in such as Chinese history or a personal experience they’d like to share. There were many memorable meetings, but Leonard particularly remembered the first film the club presented.

The movie was Romero, a 1989 film directed by Australian filmmaker John Duigan and dealing with the assassination of the archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador. A Salvadoran graduate student shyly commented that he was interested in attending the meeting because the movie was banned in El Salvador. Leonard convinced the student to present the film and had quite the surprise when the student confessed that he had actually been present at the plaza when the murder took place. The experience was amazing. “You’re not getting that on television!” Leonard joked.

All good things must come to an end, however. In 1997 Leonard decided to leave Cine Club Colegial. The trips to San Germán to pick up and drop off movies at midnight became too tiring. Different people, including comparative literature students and professors from various departments, took up the club’s leadership, and for a while it kept disappearing altogether and resurfacing again. Leonard isn’t sure if Cine Club Colegial had disappeared completely when Hugo Ríos, a graduate student doing his master’s in English, started Cinematheque in 2003.  According to the information in its Facebook page, Cinematheque seems to follow Cine Club Colegial’s footsteps, describing itself as showing “foreign, experimental and rarely seen cinema weekly on campus, free of cost, for entertainment and group discussion.” After Ríos graduated in 2005, Cinematheque has been left in the hands of students, including the current coordinator Nelson de León, a Computer Science major.

De León has worked hard to lure students and revive the club but he admits his efforts haven’t met with much success. “There’s problems advertising. Even though we had an email newsletter and still have a steady facebook group, a lot of people don’t seem to get the message; I’ve been informed that conflicting schedules are also a reason for people unable to show up,” he explains.

Times have changed, however. People have more options on Monday nights, technology makes entertainment easy to carry around in your pocket, and if you want to hear interesting testimony or learn a few facts about any topic, information is just a few clicks away. All these facts seem to take away the relevance of an activity like Cinematheque. In an age where people use the Internet to meet people around the world and even fall in love, group dynamics and face-to-face interactions seem to have fallen at the bottom of the list for most college students when it comes to meeting new people.

An activity that attracted many people using handmade posters and the premise of watching a movie in a crowded room with a small television is now barely attracting three people, too few for the giant screen in front of them. Even a powerful promotional tool such as the Internet and the cozy ambience of La Cueva de Tarzán are not enough to generate interest. It seems ironic that the technological improvements that should make Cinematheque a more viable option for students are what seem to be subjecting it to a slow death.

Save energy, save the planet & save money

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By: Joann Marie Rodríguez

Save energy, save the planet and save money

Daily people can see the deterioration of the environment, and the reality is that most of the people are accustomed to a life style that contributes enormously to this situation. But is difficult, for example imagine peoples lives without the use of energy; they use it to illuminate the streets and homes in the night, power machinery in factories, and cook food.

The environmental status is an alarming situation, but, fortunately there exists a lot of ways to reduce this deterioration. One of these ways is the energy conservation.

What is the energy conservation?

The energy conservation is the practice of using less energy. It has a lot of benefits: financial capital, environmental and human comfort.

Why is energy conservation so important?

Nowadays there is available a limited amount of nonrenewable energy such as petroleum.  People need to start thinking in the production of energy from natural sources that are renewable to conserve those that are non renewable for future generations. “Energy conservation is also important because the use of those nonrenewable sources impact in a bad way the environment,” said Hector Félix, Electrical Engineer P.E. For example, some methods used to produce energy use fossil fuel and this practice contributes to contaminate two of the most important substances to live, air and water.

This practice, the use of fossil fuel to produce energy, produces an increase in the Global Warming. The Global Warming is the result for an increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s surface, air and oceans; the effect of the Global Warming will result in a big change in the weather. “It is very important to understand that almost all the practices that affect the environment will also affect people’s health. For example, air contamination can cause of a lot of respiratory diseases” said the Professor of Environmental Chemistry of the UPRM, Maritza De Jesús.

People can help to solve those global problems that affect the environment condition. Here is a short guide based in tips from the ecological association of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM) Campus Verde, The Electric Power Authority of P.R., and other ecological websites on how to reduce the environmental impact of the energy consumption:

First there are 3 big steps to reduce the energy use:

  • Change what you use

To reduce the use of fossil fuels instead of using the car, for transportation use a bicycle, walk or use mass transit; the car emissions contribute for about 60 percent of the air pollution.

  • Improve your housekeeping

Install in your home and work area fluorescent light bulbs. Those bulbs use less energy and last approximately 10 times longer that the common light bulbs.

  • Educate yourself and others about energy conservation

There are a lot of organizations that provide information to the people to save energy, for example, The Electric Power Authority of P. R. (AEE).

You can save money and can contribute to save the planet at the same time. Here some tips to save energy in some of the most daily practices and visit places:

  • Transportation:

–  It is the number one chance to save money and save the environment.

–  The resale value of your car drops as the odometer reading increases and the use of cars is the single largest source of pollution. It contributes to air pollution, water pollution, groundwater pollution, thermal pollution, and noise pollution, the   production of greenhouse gases and of curse the global warming. Also it contributes to the landfill with all its consumable part: air filters, oil filters, fuel filters, engine coolant and more others. The disposal of car engine oils is one of the sources of lead in the environment.

–  To reduce pollution you can walk, use a bicycle or use public transportation. Remember your bicycle don’t have to be brand-new; what you need is inexpensive transportation. When you walk and use the bicycle as transportation means you help the environment but also help your health and with the use of public transportation you save money.

–  Another option if you need to use your car you can plan your trips in order to reduce the traveled distance and you can slow down to the posted speed limit. With a speed of 55 mph in the expressway you can save gasoline.

ü  You can also always make sure your vehicle is running properly to reduce the fuel consumption and the greenhouse gases emitted by the cars and increase its performance.

  • Housekeeping:

– Turn it off. Commonly people leave the stereos, lights and televisions on in their house when there is no one in the room.

–  Buy energy-saving appliances. Nowadays there are bulbs, washing machines, refrigerator, air conditioners, electric stove and other appliances created with the purpose to save energy.

–  Replace incandescent bulbs with fluorescent compact lights (CFLs) and use bulbs with the appropriate amount of watts for your needs.  CFLs need a little more energy when they are first turned on, but once the electricity starts moving, use about 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. CF lights use about 25 percent of the energy of incandescent lights to produce the same amount of light. The problem with these bulbs is that have mercury vapor and when you need to dispose it you have to put in a bag or take them to recycle because it can cause damage to the environment. Another bulb that doesn’t have this problem is the LEDs (Light emitting diodes), these ones save more energy and don’t have mercury and lasts longer but are more expensive.

–  If you are purchasing Christmas lights, look into the newer LED-based lights. They use much less electricity than conventional lighting.

–  Air- dry your clothes, it is free, also wash your clothes with cold water.

– Turn the water heater on 15 to 30 minutes before using the hot water, turn it off when not in use, and buy the water heater according to your family size (5 gallons per person). You can also buy a solar water heater.

–  Use a fan instead the use of an air conditioner. You can put the fan near the window to pull in air from outside.  If you prefer an air conditioner looks for the unit with the highest energy efficiency rating (EER). An EER of 8 is considered good, while 10 or more is excellent, and clean the air filter at least once a week.

– Disconnect the electrical household when you aren’t using it. They create charges named as phantom charges because are the phantom power spent by electrical   household even when   they are turned off.  It represents 5-15 percent of your electricity bill. If you don’t want to connect and disconnect it continually you can look out for a multi-plug and you can turn it off when you don’t use the electrical household.

There are many other ways to save energy and save money. Is important to pay attention to the economical and environmental crisis and how you can act to reduce it. If you want more information   about how and why save energy:

– Contact the Electric Power Authority of Puerto Rico (AEE) at

1-800-981-24 34 or visit the webpage www.aeepr.com

– Visit the webpage http://www.energysavers.com

– Visit the web page http://www.campusverde.uprm.edu

– For information about electrical   household that are created to save energy or buy it visit the webpage http://www.energystar.com

Flamenco Nights in San Germán

“Ehi gitana mía, lero lero lèi!” it’s all can be heard every Saturday of April at the center of the town of San Germàn. Thousands of people come to this event to enjoy the flamenco nights, which are part of the cultural agenda of this little town, which includes historical nights, typical food under the stars, movies at the town plaza, and a lot of great activities.
The purpose of bringing a flamenco night to the town of San Germàn is to remake the traditions and the culture of Spain. “Flamenco embodies a complex musical and cultural tradition. Although it is considered part of the culture of Spain, flamenco actually originates from one region: Andalusìa,” said Marìa Justiniano, the owner of one of the restaurants who participates in this agenda. Her restaurant is enrolled in this big event because these activities are part of every citizen of this town, because is about our own roots and identity, expressed mayor of the town Isidro Negròn.
According to the magazine Que Pasa!, if you go to a tri to San Germàn you will find yourself really interested in the way every activity is presented, it says that is amazing the participation of the young people, who come to visit the town, and even their chats about how this culture was first brought to Puerto Rico, and also how it was mixed with the Africans and the Taìnos(natives from the islands). One of the most interesting activities activities you will find is the forum about how was created the “bomba and plena” which takes place every first Sunday of the monthat the Plaza Santo Domingo. Some people believed that this music is something that we have in our blood, and others thought that was introduced by the Africans, who were trait to Puerto Rico like slaves in that area.
Some people feel intrigue about how this little town has so much history. The mayor of the town, Isidro Negròn, says that he is very proud of the citizens of the town of San Germàn, who were showing a wide interest and participating in these activities. The mayor assures that he had brought dancers from Spain, because San Germàn is a town rich in history and tradition. This humble town is better known as “City Founder of Towns” because San German was the second city founded by the Spanish in Puerto Rico, so why not bring something that reminds us of our Spanish roots?, asked Negròn.
Conglomerates of people stand u in the town square to watch the dancers dressed in a very particular way, with the typical clothing of Spain. Some girls could be heard telling their mothers that they wanted to learn to dance flamenco, so they can become dancers when they grow up, expressed the reporter or TV, Carolina Rodrìguez, in a special coverage of this major event. This activity is a success, next year it will be repeated, said the honorable mayor Isidro Negròn, he added that many towns should take that idea and begin to develop more cultural activities that enrich society, attract tourist and, ,most importantly support the local economy.
As an entertainment you may visit the monastery Porta Coeli, one of the major attractions of San Germàn. It now serves as a religious museum according to the site http://www.welcometopuertorico.org/city/sanger.shtml . If you like night life, you can visit some bars that are located in the center of the town, and that almost every week bring live music. You can find contemporary music, or also the oldies for the mature public which is very common to find in those bars.
Another major attraction of this city is the traditional underground tunnels that run throughout the town, but unfortunately they are closed to the public at present can only be accessed by the Hermitage or by the Colegio San Josè, which is a private school with more tradition in San Germàn, according to the magazine Que Pasa.
Flamenco Nights can be enjoyed by all public, but it is really aimed at young university students, said Negròn. This is a good cultural activity for students of the UPRM, especially for the humanities students, which usually are people with a high cultural level. But that does not cease to be an activity of great interest to all your university.
The flamenco nights can be an interesting way to spend your Saturdays. Visiting this town would be a great opportunity to socialize with other people, and also meet with people you don’t see for many years. These events usually have sweestakes where you could be winning any surprise awards.

How a Recycling Conscience Can Lead to a Better Environment

By Alexander Burgos

Recycling is an essential step for a cleaner environment.  According to the Autoridad de Desperdicios Sólidos (A.D.S), an organization established on 1978, recycling is an effective way of consuming less resources and leaving less solid deposits on our surface by re-using prime materials such as paper, aluminum, glass, plastic and cardboard boxes.  Recycling is something that every person, especially the younger generations should adopt as a habit.

Students in the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez Campus (UPRM) can develop beneficial recycling habits thanks to tips and guides from organizations and programs within the UPRM campus.

With organizations devoted to the green movement, like Campus Verde, students can learn more about the benefits of recycling.  Campus Verde’s main goal is to create an eco-friendly conscience in UPRM students so that they can live at peace with nature.  It has a website listing events and tips on how to recycle properly and which items are reusable, like paper, aluminum and plastic.

A link to the recycling program ReVerdeSiendo can be found in the Campus Verde website as well.  This program is lead by Roberto Torres, the recycling coordinator of the Oficina de Salud y Seguridad Ocupacional y Protección Ambiental (also known as OSSOA).

In an interview with Mr. Torres, he said that the main goal of his recycling program, which is linked to the A.D.S is to reduce and reuse materials inside the UPRM campus.  “Puerto Rico’s garbage dumps are getting full,” said Mr. Torres. This was his biggest concern.

“Our goal is to reuse materials and reduce 35 percent of the amounts of trash sent to the dumpsters,” Torres said.  He also wants it to be the best recycling program in the UPR.  He wants students to have knowledge about what recycling is and what it brings to the community and, foremost, the environment.  He argues that conscience about recycling needs to be created now before students continue with their lives as adults.

Although recycling is evident inside the UPRM campus, there are obstacles that limit the amount of items that can be recycled.  One of these obstacles is the lack of interest coming from the university janitors, who refuse to change the bags in the recycling bins when they get full, reducing the amount of materials that can later be reused by the university itself.  Mr. Torres said he is writing letters to the Deans of the University so that the janitors can help to deal with this situation.

Another obstacle is the amount of recycling bins inside campus. “The recycling bins we use are few and small,” Mr. Torres said. He also working to get new recycling bins that are bigger, easier to work with and more attractive to students.  According to Mr. Torres 39,335 pounds of items are currently recycled each trimester.  He hopes to double that amount, but without help from the staff this cannot be achieved.

Recycling activities are held inside campus by Campus Verde, which promotes this program in order to motivate students to recycle more and help with the cause.  Campus Verde recommends that students reduce the amount of paper used daily by: sending emails to other students and professors, working on a computer and printing on both sides of a paper.

According to the Campus Verde website, students should dispose of materials such as plastic bottles and aluminum soda cans in recycling bins instead of the normal trash bins. These recycling bins are located in the cafeteria, around the Students Center and in the Stefani building.

The A.D.S and Campus Verde want the recycling fever to spread.  They want knowledge about recycling to reach students how so that they can later pass it on to their children.  According to both the Campus Verde initiative and the program lead by Roberto Torres, students should learn more about recycling and adopt this habit in order to fight contamination.  “When students recycle, more material is reused and less deposits are thrown in our surface,” said Mr. Torres.“ Although we are recycling, it is still not enough to reduce the amount of garbage that gets piled up in P.R. dumpsters,” said Mr. Pagán.

He’s disappointed that government plans to raise conscience about recycling in every town of P.R. have not succeded.  “It’s sad that these plans never took place” Pagán said, He is convinced that recycling is still limited in P.R. because of the society and government.

Nonetheless, W.R. Recycling, the only major recycling center in the southwest area is keeping busy.  “The amounts of items recycled vary a lot,” said Pagán “but we receive approximately 100 tons of recycled cardboard boxes”, each week.  This is the most recycled material at W.R. Recycling, but they also receive 15 tons of aluminum; 20 tons of newspaper and 80 tons of steel each month.  W.R. Recycling was established four years ago in Cabo Rojo and generates at least 14 direct jobs.

A compressing machine of W.R. Recycling, at my right supervisor Edwin Pagán

Approximately 24 thousand cans are recycled and compress in one of these stacks.

Approximately 24 thousand cans are recycled and compress in one of these stacks.

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