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Success Story: Kevin Gonzalez

Kevin González Solano is a neighbor of the community of Pacuare in Limón, where he grew up with his parents and seven brothers. When he turned 16, his family faced a very difficult time because Don Omar, Kevin's father, could not find a job.

On his side, Kevin was influenced by friends who encouraged him to escape from school and make wrong decisions. He had become rebellious with his family and with life, yet within his heart he harbored dreams which he wanted to fulfill, but he did not know how to reach them. He was shot down and wounded by difficult situations in his environment.

"I reached the limit and hit rock bottom, enough to understand that I was wrong and that I needed help. I took God's hand and got up off the floor, thanks to the Youth Action Foundation and my dad's support, because they believed in me, because otherwise I would have ended up in jail or dead, "said Kevin Gonzalez.

The Young Action Foundation (FAJ), in order to prevent educational exclusion, called Don Omar González (Kevin's father) to return Kevin to school. Kevin gave himself another chance and returned to school, raising all his grades and no longer missing classes. FAJ became a support both at an economic level (uniforms, tools, shoes) and at an emotional level, through talks, quality time and advice.

"I spent four hours in the Foundation's office, they gave me emotional support, they were waiting for me to attend classes and that definitely motivated me to continue in school," Kevin affirms.

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Kevin has been a source of inspiration for many young people within his community. He talks with them about the importance of finishing school, to be supported by their family, foundations like FAJ and leading a healthy life. He is now an enthusiast of physical activity and does two hours of exercise every day.

"In the middle of my situation, I always knew I could do it, I just needed to work hard. All dreams can be achieved. You should never give up, even if you sometimes feel that the dumb are against you, "says Kevin Gonzalez.

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Now at 19, Kevin considers himself a warrior for winning the battle to drugs and the street. He enjoys a healthy life, values his family and in September of this year will begin his medical career at the International University of Americas (UIA). He knows that this new challenge will not be easy, but he is willing to give it all for his dream.

"Today I am a month away from starting my medical degree, thanks to the support of my father and the Young Action Foundation in the CTP, because they believed in me and supported me when they saw me fall," Kevin concludes.

For more information, you can write to: info@accionjoven.org

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International Youth Day

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Since 2000, August 12th has been commemorated as International Youth Day, which seeks to promote greater participation of young people in the development of solutions to current problems and a greater commitment on the part of governments to improve opportunities for the youth.

International Youth Day invites us to pause along the way and reflect on the current situation of young people in Costa Rica.

It is important to recognize that there is a great diversity of experiences currently lived by young people in the country. In relation to increasing inequality within the country and our approach as a foundation, it is important to detail the tasks that we have pending to ensure greater opportunities and social inclusion of young people within contexts of high social vulnerability.

Today, only 40.8% of young people between the ages of 17 and 21 finish school. That's to say, out of every 10 young people, 5-6 do not manage to complete secondary education.

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Without secondary school, the possibilities of labor insertion and social mobility are extremely limited, which reflects in the national figures of youth unemployment. Costa Rica has the highest level of youth unemployment in Central America, with 48% of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 currently unemployed.

Additionally, when a young person is excluded from the education system, it is then challenging to find work or to resume studies in the future. Currently, there are 172,136 young people aged between 15 to 24 who are not studying or working, [6] leaving these young people more vulnerable to being involved or affected by situations of violence.

Although the grand picture could be overwhelming - and that it is important that we become aware of reality, we can still work together and transform this whole situation.

The trajectory of the Young Action Foundation (FAJ), 11 years of experience working in public schools teaches us that when attending to the factors that contribute to student exclusion - such as: lack of interest and little sense of belonging to the school, academic performance problems, lack of financial resources and problems of access-generate very positive results in the lives of at-risk youth.

For example, using the FAJ methodology in the framework of the High Opportunity Schools project, the student's exclusion from the South Pacific Lyceum was reduced from 11.3% in 2015 to only 3.3% in 2016, and in the same period of time, in the CTP of Purral, there was also a reduction from 10.4% exclusion to 5.2%. In the Bagaces School, a significant reduction of 7.3% of exclusion was generated to 4.1%, also within the space of one year.

Like these schools, there are many more with whom FAJ works with, who have committed themselves to improving inclusion, strengthening the quality of education and providing more opportunities for young people to facilitate the transition from school to employment and / or university.

More students who manage to stay in school are more young people who will have opportunities to continue their studies, develop their life plan and get a job in something that generates social mobility and the possibility of contributing to the economic and social development of the country.

In this process of activating more and better opportunities for young people, it is fundamental to involve them in the process. We can not continue with a centrist adult vision and expect them to empower themselves with the process.

When we offer more possibilities of participation to the young people, they take advantage of them actively. Committing ourselves as a country, government, organization, company and individuals to create a more just, inclusive society, and opportunities for quality of study, employment and positive recreation for young people, is the most important task and that will generate more positive return to youth well-being, socially and economically of the country.

- In commemoration of International Youth Day

Anna Zimbrick

Executive Director of Fundación Acción Joven

 

 

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When art joins with youth and transforms lives

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Let's go back in time. Imagine yourself at the age of 15, starting the ninth year but in one of three scenarios:

- living in a neighborhood that does not have all the public services or good infrastructure, in a single-parent family and with hard economic problems.

- In a coastal community, living with your grandparents, who suffer from health problems that you cannot solve, and with a reduced income.

- In a house in good condition, with a regular income, but you with an inexhaustible and hardly understood energy.

To any of these scenarios, sum up all the insecurities and surprises that entails teenager.

Now imagine that one day at school they announce the news of the opening of new groups of artistic expression and idea starts to resonate with you. Maybe as an adult rather than like that young person, wonder how art can positively impact and transform lives?

Culture and artistic expression are concepts and experiences that have been sought from an occasional point of view and of entertainment in our society. However, art is one of the oldest, authentic medians of personal exploration that exists.

See yourself at 15 years old entering an artistic group, a group of garage music, street dance, school theater, writing poetry at home or in courses of some instrument of the municipality or of private academies.

At first instance, you may feel some discomfort talking or sharing with people within the group that you don't understand things very well and even to some extent, think that the exercises may even seem ridiculous. However, you continue to attend because you like to dance, act, draw and because the things you do in those sessions begin to make sense to you.

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Over time, you begin to perceive how art encompasses essential components that begin to transform your thinking and the way you act with others.

You, being this young person who wanted to make art, now begins to understand that carrying out an artistic process develops discipline, commitment, respect - due to working in a group - and enhances individual and collective responsibilities.

The artistic process deepens by the lessons coming from self-knowledge, so much as thought as of the body as well. Therefore, personal perception is enlarged and improved, which in turn affects the vision of the world.

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After a few months he or she is a different adolescent than the one who entered the very first day. Possibly their family's economic and social situation remains the same. But now you are equipped with tools that allow you to carry differently the conflictive and stressful situations you experience. In addition, he or she found a healthy space in which to share and generate a self and collective identity.

Let us now return to the present day you, today with your life. It may be easier for us to share our vision in Fundación Acción Joven with respect to the transforming power of art in the lives of young people as an engine for building personal and collective projects and to change for the better, the way in which they see themselves, how they relate to others and empower them to act in their environment and daily life.

Catalina Vargas Muñóz

Project Coordinator CAO of Fundación Acción Joven

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Crisis of violence requires more opportunities for young people

San José, May 2017. Violent events in broad daylight, such as those that occurred this week in Escazú, leave the country with great concern and seeking for answers. Despite the crucial intervention of the Ministry of Public Security and other authorities, without an approach that attacks the roots of violence, such as the one that has been developing with the Young Action Foundation (FAJ) through its 10 years working in vulnerable areas, the violence we live in will continue to grow.

According to data from the Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ), 2016 closed with 577 homicides nationwide, which represents a rate of 11.8 murders per 100,000 inhabitants and shows an increase in violence compared to the rate of the previous years.

"This problem requires us to present a proactive response. During these situations, there is often a temptation to ask the authorities for repressive actions-more police officers, tougher sentences for those who offend the law, and more private security. It is intriguing to think that we will be safer as well. The Public Force, the OIJ, the Judiciary and other authorities play a critical role, especially in responding to organized crime problems, but if we do not address the roots of violence - social exclusion, unemployment,  and lack of opportunities in the area that is vulnerable - we're just going to be putting on a patch instead of reducing or preventing current and future violence, "voices Anna Zimbrick, Executive Director of Fundación Acción Joven.

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59.2% of young people between the ages of 17 and 21 do not complete high school, and a total of 172,136 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 do not study or work. These are some of the statistics that reveal the great urgency of providing youth with quality opportunities to prevent them from engaging in illicit activities.

"From other countries in Central America, Mexico and the US, we should learn that hard-hitting policies do not solve problems of violence. We, the government, and schools fight violence with education and more opportunities for improvement, "added Zimbrick.

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The FAJ Juvenile Violence Prevention Program, implemented in Puntarenas and Limón thanks to the support of the US Embassy, APM Terminal, Hilton Hotel and other allies, works closely with vulnerable youth to prevent student exclusion and prevent access to criminal circles, drugs and abuse.

It is through this process that young people outside the educational system, break the mold and develop leadership skills, vision of entrepreneurship, psychological support, treatment of addictions and employability profile; to become more empathetic people capable of solving their differences through dialogue.

National Household Survey 2016

II Continuing Employment Survey 2016

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What is Our Identity?

To answer the question about our identity, we should find something immutable in us, something that never changes, can you think of identity in today's world? Can you think of something that does not change in a world where everything is constantly changing?

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The word "identity" comes from Latin meaning "the same". That is, what is always the same. However, many of the actions we identify as "equal", and that recur consistently in our lives, are very few. Some of them are names, surnames, the family, and the place where we were born. This leads us to conclude that there are more factors that identify and construct our "identity".

Therefore, we could say that "identity" is a human condition. As people we have the need to belong to the most visceral issues, which are usually derived from a cultural construct. This construct is usually defined by the elements generated by the social, geographical, cultural and historical environment of each one and / or group of belonging, which is formed over time, and is molded and enriched.

With all the existing and promoting changes by the influence of the mass media, we prioritize the possession (objects) and leave aside the being (identity), social learning and the experiences of oneself.

For example, our membership groups are based on an activity that involves a common object that unites us (surfer, buggie, skateboarder, biker, etc.), but does not go beyond the activity towards the construction of "being".

Thinking the social, in terms of identity and intervention, involves the construction of a meeting point between the person, the culture and its environment in general. Contextual aspects dialogue, cross-link, elaborate different types of demands and identify with them.

Nevertheless, within the analysis that is made from the work carried out by FAJ with people in situations of social vulnerability, specifically in the community of Chacarita, Puntarenas, we find an important variable and, in many cases, determinants for the identity development of one and / or the other: the development of the person as a "unitary individual".

A young person who develops as a unitary individual has few social ties, relationships and constructs from a group to the other. This leads to the construction of an identity that certainly influences the environment, the context and the culture, which does not allow him or her to contemplate himself or herself in a whole group, the place where he or she is immersed implicitly.

Above all, in the youth with whom we are working, and those who propose to work under the concept of identification, destruction, construction, and reconstruction of identity, they usually generate a little apprehension in terms of sharing their feelings and their identity at group levels, but not individually. Why? The answer is simple: they are immersed within certain patterns that require them to follow a series of expected practices, such as macho behaviors for example.

All this leads us to demand, train and educate the perception, to break the mold and to challenge from the construction of the "being", the way of not falling into prejudices, oriented to care and link from the accompaniment, the listener, the construction with and for them with equal form.

Agustina Gómez Cáceres

Project Coordinator of Young Action Foundation / Puntarenas Headquarters

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The New Advisory Board of Youth Action Foundation

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Youth Action Foundation announces the formation of its new Advisory Council. This group consisting of eight people with great professional trajectory and social commitment, contribute to the Young Action Foundation their knowledge, experience and dedication to create positive changes in the country. Their advice comes to support the Foundation's work in generating more opportunities for young people in contexts of social vulnerability and to influence the improvement of programs and public policy aimed at young people.

In alphabetical order, the members of the Advisory Council are:

· Jose Aguilar Berrocal, President of the Board of Directors and Founder of Youth Action Foundation (FAJ). Executive Director of Positive Horizon Association.

· Edgar Ayales Esna, former Minister of Finance and former representative of Central America on the Board of Directors of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank and Director of the Costa Rican Stock Exchange.

· Edna Camacho Mejía, President and Researcher of the Academy of Central America. Previously, she was Vice Minister of Finance and Director General of CINDE. She has been a consultant for national and international organizations.

· Yolanda Lacoma, Founder and President of Talent Analytics / PeopleTreeGroup and Managing Director of Mundo Strategies. In addition, she is Senior Consultant of F & L Group and a Professor of the University of Aberdeen.

· Edgar Mata, Vice President of the communication agency CCK Centroamérica. Previously, he worked on television, as Torch presenter on Channel 13 and as host and interviewer on Channel 4's NC4.

· Gabriela Saborío, Founder of the Progressive Yunta Escazuceña and PAC. They have been a great ally of Youth Action Foundation since the beginning of the organization.

· Jorge Vargas Cullell, Director of the State of the Nation Program and researcher in the areas of democracy and political systems. Author of numerous books and articles on topics such as quality of democracy, political attitudes and reform of the State. He is a columnist for La Nación and has been a consultant for international organizations.

· Mónica Vul, Researcher at the Institute for Psychological Research and Coordinator in the Violence and Society Research Program at the University of Costa Rica. Psychoanalyst and guest lecturer at the University of Buenos Aires, University of San Martín (UNSAM), University of Barcelona, niversity of El Salvador, University of Almada (Portugal) and others.

In addition, Youth Action Foundation benefits from the strong support of Roberto Artavia, President of the Board of Directors of VIVA Trust and Fundación Latinoamérica Possible, as an Honorary Strategy Advisor in the process of preparing and implementing the new FAJ strategic plan for 2017 -2019.

Javier Berrocal, business consultant and former business manager of several companies, is contributing to the Foundation through its role as an Honorary Member of the Advisory Council.

Council members donate their time to advise the Foundation from their particular experience. Aditionally, they participate in regular meetings to ensure the proper fulfillment of FAJ's objectives and strategies.

The formation of the Advisory Council marks the beginning of a new stage of growth for the Youth Action Foundation and greater opportunities for the young people with whom we work.

Youth Action Foundation thanks the members for dedicating their time, energy and valuable experience to help us build together a more inclusive society.

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FAJ-INL impact on coastal communities

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On February 8, at the facilities of Lead University, the Youth Action Foundation (FAJ) and the US Embassy in Costa Rica, offered a thank-you breakfast and accountability of the FAJ-INL project in the areas of Limón and Puntarenas, during 2015 and 2016.

The event highlighted the work and effort made by the team, appreciating the great support provided by its allies, who were an essential part of the success of all the achievements made. Representatives of the public sector, such as ICODER and the Union of Local Governments, international cooperation such as UNDP, and private sector allies including Grupo Pasqui, Banco BCT, DELL, APM Terminals and Banco Promerica, and stakeholders civil society as Habitat for Humanity.

David Hernández, chief operating officer of FAJ, highlighted the importance of this project for both coastal areas, which benefited from youth leadership initiatives, prevention of student exclusion, youth employability and prevention of violence and drug use.

This was achieved through joint work in schools with seventh and tenth grade students (levels with the highest exclusion rate), teachers, community members and strategic allies, addressing a human development approach, community transformation, entrepreneurship and employability and promoting adolescents to make their own decisions.

In Puntarenas, the program was implemented in the Liceo de Chacarita and nearby communities. Through this process it was possible that the educational exclusion fell from 13.40% to 10.49% in 2015 and then to 7.50% in 2016. Achieved likewise was the process of bidding for constructing a new school, the formation of the BUGOS community group and support for its initiatives, the BodyBoard Student Tournament and a close relationship between the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton and the educational center, which enabled the development of the 2015 training program and the Hilton Careers 2016.

Likewise, in Limón, student exclusion rates in the tenth year were reduced to 7.69% in 2015 and then 5.40% in 2016, compared to a 15.8% exclusion figure before the beginning of the work done by FAJ. With these efforts, the first surf camp was made, a strategy to build relationships with the community and positive spaces for recreation, the creation of the Caribe Fútbol Friends youth group, and the development of the Gotitas de Vida project, which seeks to educate to teachers, students and families with respect to diversity and inclusion was also made. The Gotitas de Vida group generated an artistic intervention at Pacuare High School and the group was awarded by the UNED.

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Social projects of this level, manage to maximize devotion to materialize ideas, the creation of safe zones with young people, the construction of a collaborative social fabric, youth empowerment and the transformation of realities for a more just and inclusive society.

Let's build bridges of opportunity for our youth!

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New Year, New Goals

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As we begin a new year, we tend to venture into writing purposes that reflect, even a little, what we learned from the previous year; looking for improved impressions and detailing goals for this to be a successful year as well.

Like a new dawn, everything seems to be fresher, brighter, and we wish this year to be a more generous one and to get the most out of it possible.

Beginning the school year, the pages of the notebooks, still blank and without scribbles, invite us to write new stories, where knowledge becomes a tool of power and emergent opportunities to be the transforming path.

From Youth Action Foundation, our struggle to build a more just and inclusive society continues, and has evolved to work at, student exclusion in public schools, as well as other lines of action: prevention of violence and support for labor introduction, through our Youth Employability Program.

Like every year, in 2017 we are joined by new faces of exceptional young people, who, despite their many challenges, have created inspirational legacies for those who follow; young people who reflect an extract from the poem that says "... I am the master of my destiny: the captain of my soul", by Mandela; young people who decided to look at their life through different lenses, believing in their unlimited potential by giving them the tools indicated.

That is why, this year's resolutions are aimed to inspire ... to inspire to continue to build bridges towards inclusion, to open doors that materialize dreams and to weave a network that allows new horizons of opportunities for youth, from a conviction more supportive and humane.

Kristy Crawford Castro

Project Coordinator of Youth Action Foundation

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More Solidarity

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The most emblematic motto of the Youth Action Foundation is "more solidarity". The people closest to FAJ actually live this message in their day to day life, in their acting, thinking and interacting with other people. However, it is necessary to describe more explicitly what the idea of ”More Solidarity” actually means to the Foundation.

The reality is that sometimes we feel "offended" by different situations that are presented in society in general - be it racism, machismo, violence, xenophobia, social exclusion, lack of opportunities for certain segments of the population, etc., but at the end of the day, we tend to act in a way that suits us best and not necessarily in identifying ourselves with the problems that are affecting other human beings.

Say for example, we hear of a highly unjust situation - say, refugees who have fled persecution in their country only to be discriminated against in another, or young people who, despite giving their best, do not receive a quality public education - we feel this " Just shouldn’t be", we are indignant with the "cruel world" that surrounds us, but do we do something about it?

Solidarity means shortening the distance between our impression of moral offense and our actions, thus turning the struggle of other people into ours and to stop thinking that the suffering of another person does not affect me, because through solidarity, that other person becomes my sister or brother, my friend and my family expands.

Solidarity allows us to share more smiles, but also more tears. It offers us the joy and happiness of being able to celebrate the triumphs that are not directly ours, but also leads us to sometimes feel a deep sadness, confusion and impotence, leading us to rebel and not to accept what is unjust and oppressive.

True solidarity challenges us to be consistent with how we want to see the world and our actions as a result of it. It does not allow us to say "it doesn’t affect me".

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We have managed to spread the "most solidarity" and see this practice in teachers who give the extra mile in helping their students, supporters who support the cause with a lot of commitment and the staff that works not to meet a schedule, but rather so that people go ahead, celebrate their successes and accompany them in difficult times, helping them to build solutions, always in a respectful way and putting young people as protagonists in their development processes.

This is the time of the year to reflect, generate new goals and make the decision to live with much more solidarity this 2017. Implementing the FAJ motto of "More Solidarity" is an exciting challenge that we embrace and that helps us build a more just and inclusive society.

Anna Zimbrick
Executive Director of Youth Action Foundation

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10 years of struggle against student exclusion

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"All idealism is exaggerated, it needs to be." - José Ingenieros ... and Acción Joven Foundation (FAJ), as an idea, was no exception. Some thought it was an unattainable dream, but 10 years later, the FAJ team and its allies celebrated, on October 20 at the Institute of Mexico, the trajectory of a decade in fighting against student exclusion and for a more just and inclusive society.

The celebration event of the 10th Anniversary was attended by family members, allies, friendly organizations and TCUs, who were welcomed with the opening words of the Second Vice President of the Republic; Mrs. Ana Helena Chacón highlighted the importance of fighting together for a society with more and better opportunities for today's youth.

Jose Aguilar, founder and president of FAJ, Byron Salas and Myriam Centeno, pioneers in the construction of the foundation told the beginnings and struggles to form FAJ. "They do not know how many times they did not say that this was pure story, a romantic issue and that we were not going to achieve," Aguilar remarks.

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Young people from the communities where FAJ has worked, were the center of this celebration and shared their artistic talents (theatrical and musical) and testimonies about the impact of FAJ in their lives, among them the BUGOS and Roberto Rojas from the Liceo de Alajuelita. "It's interesting how this foundation does not see a note (academic wise), but sees a person with a history behind it," said Rojas, who is finishing the school today and now a technician in administrative management thanks to an alliance with ULatina and Globeleq Mesoamerica Energy. "The Youth Action Foundation gave my life a 180 degree turn," said Rojas.

As part of the elected organizers, young graduates of the "Learning for Live" program participated, to which FAJ refers young people from socially vulnerable communities, in order to train them in the hospitality area and thus give them a tool to take advantage of new job opportunities, which allow to continue with your university studies.

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"These and all the cases of improvement have two things in common: a determined will and a helping hand that arrives on time," said Sonia Marta Mora, Minister of Education, referring to the work of FAJ supporting so many young people.

Actually, Acción Joven works with passion and determination to open opportunities for young people from contexts of social vulnerability, through three lines of action: prevention of student exclusion, support for labor insertion and prevention of violence. This work has allowed the positive impact on the lives of more than 20,000 young people at social risk and the reduction of national student exclusion. A dream come true in which few believed and, in Aguilar's words, "how nice to see that they were wrong".


More photos of the 10th Anniversary here.
For more information you can write to: info@accionjoven.org

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