Students who are looking for a friendly atmosphere to discuss the pressing topics of the day need look no further than the Papagayo Project.
“There was always, in my class, students that were creative or interested in things and would come and talk to me after,” former English Professor, Ysella Fulton said.
Fulton began the project in 2004 in order to give students a “safe space” to express themselves artistically and literally.
Whether one is interested in art, civil rights, the environment, the controversial DACA program, stress management, inspirational stories or simply a movie with a full panel discussion, there is something for everyone.
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Join the Papagayo Project on Feb.28 at Rio Grande campus for the Life & Work of Marco A. Santos.
“We’re about finding ways for students to have fun and learn at the same time,” Jorge Gomez, Rio grande English Instructor, said.He, along with his colleges, Richie Marrufo and Charlie Miller, inherited the project after one year under Fultons’ guidance.
Together, they’ve grown the project beyond weekly workshops by donating and reading books to underprivileged children. They also intend to partner with the Humane Society of El Paso.
Despite their active role, the Papagayo Project is not a club with dues and is open to all EPCC students as well as alumni and community members in general. One such member, Annette Velasquez, enjoys watching students engage.
"I like to hear about new perspectives that young people have on movies, on art, on current events, its just very interesting,” Velasquez said. “Its something that expands my horizons as a writer.”
According to the Gomez, there are no limits to the various subjects one can find when they arrive at Papagayo. “We have guest lecturers present to the students…from the humanities, to the soft and the hard sciences.”
Gomez feels that due to course and content restrictions within a given class, professors lack the freedom to challenge students concerning relevant issues without the pressure of having to assign a grade.
“Some of it is kinda from left field. We’ve had workshops on the paranormal but from an academic perspective.”
According to Gomez, the project isn’t only about lecturing to students but also providing them with a platform to gain the necessary skills to present themselves.
For the month of February, Papagayo hosted a series of Black History Month themed workshops which they co-sponsored with the help of the Diversity Programs here at EPCC. For March, they intend to focus on inspirational stories, DACA and the Post-Apocalypse.
There will not be a meeting on March 14 on account of Spring Break.
The Papagayo Project meets Wednesday from 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. in room A125 at the Rio Grande Campus. For more information students can reach out to Jorge Gomez at email@example.com and Richie Marrufo at firstname.lastname@example.org or, via Instagram and Facebook @papgayoproject.
“We want to make it comfortable, we want to make it fun but we do want to mix it up with things that are certainly relevant and things that are timely.”