In about 1996, I went to a conference where we were told about this great exchange program called Hands Across the Border. It was a foundation that had the approval of the Governors of Arizona and Mexico, the Arizona Department of Education, etc.
Growing up in Douglas and loving the Mexican culture, I was really excited about this. I went to another meeting about it and knew that it was something that I would like to bring to Gilbert El. Dottie Dawn, had moved to Gilbert El from another school, and I approached her and she was willing to be the coordinator. We had several other teachers and IA's who got very involved, especially Gloria Emanuel, Maria Salas Murphy, Dolores Yanez, Cris Silva and David Minton also helped tremendously.
I mentioned previously about having to go before the Board to ask to go on the Bisbee trip because no one had ever asked to take elementary kids on an overnight field trip. Well the same thing happened with HATB. We had to go before the Board and ask permission to take elementary kids overnight and out of the country! Because it was an established program, the Board approved it.
Thus began a 10 year incredible adventure with our sister school in Nacozari, Sonora. Each year we would take about 30 fourth, fifth and sixth graders to Nacozari for three days and two nights. Then the students from Nacozari would come to Gilbert for the same amount of time. Each student had a buddy and stayed at the buddy's home. And what a wonderful experience it was for our kids to get to do!! I went every year but one and it was just as great an experience for the adults.
Unfortunately after 9/11, it became very difficult for the Mexican students to come to visit us. The requirements were expensive and time consuming so we had to stop doing it. But what a wonderful program it was and I have such great memories (and some funny stories) of our time with our friends in Nacozari!!