Volume 4, Number 8 - January 21, 2014

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Guillermo Herrera
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College Welcome: Fifteen students from Cuba arrived in Miami on January 13 to study abroad at Miami Dade College. The visit is the first of its kind in 55 years. CRISTIAN LAZZARI/MDC MEDIA RELATIONS

Miami Dade College Welcomes Group Of Cuban Students For the First Time in Five Decades

By Guillermo Herrera

Miami Dade College made history on January 13 by bringing 15 students from Cuba to study abroad for the first time in 55 years. 

Two more students are expected to arrive at a later time to join the others as they take courses at MDC for one semester until June, according to college officials.

Miami Dade College’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Initiatives (CLACI) is coordinating the visit along with the support of the Miami-based non-profit organization Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba.

“We are very excited about this project and hope it is the beginning of great things,” said Juan Mendieta, Director of Communications.

The students will receive college credit while studying sociology, computing, psychology, and business among other types of classes at the Wolfson Campus .

Their coursework began a day after their arrival on January 14 with intense English-language training. Soon thereafter, they will progress into other scheduled courses. As a result of not being able to be added into existing classes, they will study apart from the rest of the student body.

Despite this separation, the students will have the opportunity to take advantage of the college’s resources and to interact with other MDC students.

Outside of campus, the students are living together near campus in several apartments typically used to house students visiting the college from abroad.

The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba is paying for the students’ tuition, living expenses and other auxiliary costs.

In 2011 the U.S. federal government awarded the foundation a $3.4 million, three-year grant for the purpose of assisting civil society groups in Cuba. Annually the foundation receives over half a million dollars in private donations.

“[This] was always a mutual desire of the Foundation for Human Rights and the college,” Mendieta said. “When the conditions and restrictions were amended, both organizations moved forward.”

The ages of the Cuban students range from 18 to 37 and more than half of them are women. Some of the students who have arrived are popular dissidents, including blogger Henry Constantin, who has been expelled by two Cuban universities during the past decade; graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado and rapper Raudel Collazo, according to the Miami Herald.

Four of the students are children of notable activists. Sayli Navarro is a member of the Ladies in White and daughter of former political captive Felix Navarro. Lienys Moya Soler is the daughter of former political detainee Angel Moya and Ladies in White leader Berta Soler.

Historically, the college has been an advocate of Cuban activists. Aside from hosting dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez at the Freedom Tower last year, MDC also received the protesters Ladies in White and hunger striker Coco Farinas.

“Given the cosmopolitan composition of the population of Miami, educating students from all parts of the world is important for Miami Dade College,” said College Provost, Rolando Montoya. “We have recently served cohorts of students from Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, China and many other nations. The big gap was the absence of Cuban students.”

The students were not made available to speak to The Reporter.

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Miami Dade College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate and baccalaureate degrees.
Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Miami Dade College.
Miami Dade College is an equal access/equal opportunity institution and does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, color, marital status, age, religion, national origin,
ethnicity, pregnancy, disability, veteran's status, sexual orientation, or genetic information.
Contact the Office of Director, Equal Opportunity Programs, ADA and Title IX Coordinator, at 305.237.2577 for assistance.