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Sharing culture with University of Michigan students

From left, Jose Aliaga, Hilary Walker, Jose Barrios, vice president of Continential University, Lea Christensen and Tobias Lerke. Photo provided (click for larger version)
September 29, 2010 - Independence Township resident Jose Aliaga, was able to return to his native country of Peru this past summer to promote more "good will of America to the Peruvian people" through the Aliaga Foundation.

This time he brought three students from the University of Michigan Flint with him.

"The students came with me as volunteers, they believe in what we do and wanted to help out," Aliaga said. "We had a lot of help from Richard Aztalos a board member of Aliaga Foundation, who helped us greatly in setting up the trip."

Two of the students Lea Christensen, and Hilary Walker are studying to be Spanish teachers, so the trip gave them opportunity to practice the language. Tobias Lerke is studying to be a microbiologist.

"At some of the schools we visited they got to teach both English and Spanish to the kids," Aliaga said. "Tobias got to speak at one of the universities we visited."

Aliaga said they visited three universities: the Universidad Nacional Enrique Guzman y Valle, Universidad Nacional de Centro, and Universidad Continental de Huancayo. All of which signed agreements between them and American universities including Wayne State University, and Schoolcraft College.

"Universidad Nacional de Centro where they sign agreement with Wayne State was really impressive university, but also they make a nice ceremony for us, Aliaga said. "They let us sing the U.S. National Anthem and present our flag. It was really formal."

The agreements signed between the schools, not only help Peruvian students come to America to study, but also send American students to Peru's universities. Aliaga said the tuition at one school is $40 per month and another is $20 the whole semester.

"So if you go there to take Spanish, you get food for free, house for free and pay $20 for the whole semester and you get experience to practice the language everyday as well as experience the culture," he said. "You comeback to America and you have a big savings and your Spanish is probably much better."

While visiting some of the local schools Aliaga along with the students passed out notebooks, pencils and t-shirts to the kids. Some schools only have one pencil for the entire class to use. Aliaga said "education is the key to have a better economy in the future."

"Maybe Peru or the world is missing a great doctor, a great scientist or a great professor, somebody who could change the world, but we're missing them because we didn't give them opportunity to reach it," he said. "When you visit these places you can see it in their eyes. They see its American people that are giving them opportunity."

Aliaga and the students also visited many of the poor villages that were out in the Jungles

"Some of the places were like five hours and no roads to get there," he said. "Just to see what's going on and what we can do for them."

Aliaga said they were able to provide fresh drinking water and promote taking care of the environment and with large barrels for various contaminated trash.

He said they even came across an all German Village, where the kids had blonde hair, and spoke both German and Spanish.

"I was really surprised to see in the jungle of Peru a German village," Aliaga said. "They keep their culture and traditions by style of clothing and homes."

Over all Aliaga said it was a good trip, but he hopes next year to spread what the Aliaga Foundation is doing to other countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, and some day maybe Mexico.

"We want to help bridge not only between schools, but bridge between two cultures."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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