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Kroc Students Ask What it Means to be a Good Citizen Amidst Chronic Violence

Friday, February 16, 2018TOPICS: Faculty and StaffFieldworkGlobal ImpactStudent SuccessUS-Mexico BorderYouth and PeacebuildingHuman Rights and SecurityStudy Abroad

Kroc students enjoying Culiacán, SinaloaKroc students enjoying Culiacán, Sinaloa
begin quoteWe’re not just giving a course, but rather serving as an incubator for local talent and peacebuilding efforts.

What does it mean to be a “good citizen” in the face of chronic violence? How can civic organizations and social movements mitigate the causes and effects of violence? What are the most effective roles for outsiders and locals in such a process?

Determined to address these questions, 17 students from the Kroc School travelled to Culiacán, Sinaloa on February 9 for the second of six modules in the Certificate Program in Applied Peace Education, offered by the University of San Diego and a host of local partners to 100 young people between the ages of 18 and 30. Energized by their first visit two weeks earlier, the Kroc team was eager to sound out the opinions of local young people, and look for ways to apply the knowledge they are cultivating in the School of Peace Studies to the real situations facing their colleagues in Culiacán.  

Adding to the buzz, Lissette Martínez from Telemundo/NBC stopped by the Cross-Broder Express to interview the Kroc team about our hopes and fears for the latest round of our work in Sinaloa, just before we crossed into Mexico. With remarkable luck – appearing on camera first thing in the morning – the Kroc team waded through the mix of stereotypes and serious safety concerns that keep most Americans from travelling to Sinaloa. In addition to the broader importance of peacebuilding in a neighboring country, the students stressed the warm welcome they have received and the relationships they are starting to build with local activists and young leaders.   

By 6 pm, at the Casino de la Cultura in downtown Culiacán, we had a full house for the second module in the program. “Ser Ciudadanx, Hacer Paz” [Be a Citizen, Make Peace] – explores how to conceptualize citizenship and build social movements to fight corruption and discrimination. We study comparative examples of citizenship and social movements from around the world over and think through how to translate those lessons into successful models. Across cultural and social realities and centuries of history, one of the most consistent lessons would seem to be that lasting social change is usually incremental (or at least lags other kinds of technological change) and depends upon local appropriation.

On Saturday morning, La Compañía de la Paz [The Peace Company], a local NGO in Culiacán, presented several examples of their work as a case study in civic activism to mitigate both the causes and effects of violence. The Compañía does everything from media campaigns to education programs for kids in at-risk areas, always with a collaborative and opportunistic ethos. This weekend, they featured a life-skills forum for children in neighborhoods with high incidences of violence called “La vida es un diamante” [Life is a diamond], a play on a baseball diamond and something precious. Most of their leadership team, including José Iturralde, Jonathan Moreno, Merlín Salcedo, and Edgar Unda are graduates of previous versions of Kroc’s certificate program. Their presence and success is a testament to the fact that we’re not just giving a course, but rather serving as an incubator for local talent and peacebuilding efforts.

The vector of discrimination that seems to be claiming the headlines right now and provoking collective self-reflection, not just in Mexico but globally, is sex and gender. To this end, we focused our study of social movements on those that have striven for gender equality, and we embarked upon a very personal exercise, where participants in the program interview each other about their opinions and experiences of sex and gender-based discrimination. Kroc students and local participants fanned out across the city on Saturday afternoon in search of quite spots to dialogue and think out loud.   

For more on the student experience, check out the student blogs on the Trans-Border Institute’s Facebook page, beginning with a recap of last weekend’s module by Robin Jensen, Leah Haeber, and Lizzy Davis Hynd.


What’s next?

The third module (of six) begins on Friday, February 23 in Culiacán, Sinaloa, and the Kroc team will be there.


How do I get involved?

Come to one of the modules – we welcome outside guests.  We are also happy to share and replicate our curriculum in other places and for other audiences – please contact for more information.  And we depend upon grants and donations to make this work possible.  Please consider supporting us with a donation.



Ev Meade
(619) 218-5946

Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies


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