"Hi, Would You Like To Hear My Song? I Wrote It Last Week And Just Finished Recording It,"
"Sure." I responded to the red haired 18 year old young man who sat here before me in a recording studio / living room, only two months after having graduated from a premier wilderness program where he did quite well. "Is it an original song?"
"Yes," he states with a broad grin that reveals his pride from ear to ear, "Yes, it is, and I hope you like it."
With that, I proceeded to witness a harvest of sound, a marriage of classic pop meets Argentine tang. This isn't strange, given the fact that I am sitting over 8,000 miles away from my office in California in the South American city of Mendoza, Argentina. What is different and unique at Pathways Argentina is how the program of a small number of young men can produce such positive changes within the foreign community by bringing in American good will, original music and strong stewardship toward others in orphanages and other venues.
Rich and Wendy Simpson are known to our educational community beginnings from the CEDU days of yore when values were everything and change occurred in youth on a daily basis. Rich and Wendy have worked a strong ethics and trust based system into a home in the well established and lovely fifth section of Mendoza. The purpose is to teach youth how to start living independently through building successful peer and adult relations in another country where life is well, more innocent.
"The boys learn Spanish, and they learn the Tango as they learn respect for themselves and Mendocinos," Rich reports. "Family and music here in Argentina are important parts of Mendocino culture."
Each day the boys participate in a reward based system that encourages individual and team growth. Community based service shows the fruit of their growth and respect for the other culture by learning to speak the indigenous Spanish of Argentina with its own little language variations such as "vos" for "tu" and a melodic sing-song phrasing that reveals a strong Italian influence.
After spending several days at Pathways Argentina, I found it an exciting unique transitional program that encourages a heightened degree of creativity and a broader world perspective. The boys look healthy, their eyes are clear, and their voices sound strong and focused.
Certainly the main drawback is simply the size of the program, but size isn't everything, and not everyone is willing to send youth such a distance. It is not for a complex clinical youth due to lack of therapeutic support. The program is best suited for a young man with adult transitional issues who would profit from experiencing living "the other side" of the equator. That said, it was worth every kilometer traveled to experience something this unique and creative.
Rich let me in on a secret while down in Mendoza. The first Pathways Argentina CD, a compilation of original music will be available complete with a perfect Malbec at IECA San Francisco. Consultants will enjoy learning and experiencing the culture and history of Mendoza, Argentina. We'll see you in San Francisco, Rich and Wendy.
Dr. Mark Burdick
Dr Mark Burdick is a psychologist and international educational consultant who specializes in "outside the traditional box" options for creative and culturally curious youth. Visit www.worldeducationalconsulting.com
for more information on his services.