“Never lose your hunger as you have the asset of survival,” Entrena President, John Seibel, said to conference attendees during The Sixth Annual International Conference on the Health Risks of Youth at the Hilton Hotel in Santo Domingo, sponsored by Texas-based Health Advocates LLC. The conference was attended by professors from leading American universities who specialize in the public health field.
Those words spoken to the audience are the same words he used when training wide-eyed youth from the country's poorest slums and bateyes near the Haitian border at infamous baseball academies, which in recent years, has brought international attention to the country.
This is one of the many reasons there is a need for expanded educational development in the Dominican Republic, Seibel said during his closing keynote address “Youth and Health: Opportunity for Field Studies in the D.R.”
It’s a grim outlook for these youth. Each year a growing number of Dominican baseball athletes are recruited into the MLB but lack the life skills to adapt to a new way of life in the United States.
Fortunately many of these youth are captured before they fall into this dangerous cycle of cultural shock and recidivism thanks to an education acceleration academy led by Entrena SRL, one of many education and sustainable development projects the private training company manages. There students receive basic reading instruction, key life skills training, psychological services and lastly English as a Second Language classes.
These types of innovative, community-based projects that have been developed in collaboration with USAID, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, US Department of Labor and other government ministries are premium examples of the open landscape for research, study and internship opportunities that are afforded to American students.
Seibel stressed to the audience why the Dominican Republic provides unique opportunities for study abroad programs by providing an overview of development challenges it faces. From statelessness among the undocumented Haitian and Dominican population, economic development, gender inequality, HIV, global health, DR is a microcosm of issues not commonly found in one country.
“The Latin Caribbean in general is different from say South America,” Seibel mentioned. Among the Hispanophone islands, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, have vastly different political systems creating cultural nuances specific to each country.
Hispaniola as an island creates a unique socio-cultural dynamic as it’s one of two islands in the world where two nations of divergent cultures co-exist. Overall Dominicans are typically characterized as a passionate people with a very engaging society, a plus for students looking to study in DR.
Why Study Abroad
Overall university graduates face steep competition where employers have a higher demand for bilingual and culturally competent professionals as a result of an increasingly interconnected global market. This alone has motivated American students to explore their academic and professional interests beyond international boundaries which provide for transformational experiences.
“You can see the impact of international friendships which are maintained over time.” Seibel stated highlighting the value of intercultural exchange. The company recently hosted it´s first intern from Texas A&Mstudied public health and youth development outcomes.