Route J-1

Sharing Technology Experiences in a Texas High School

Posted on Tuesday, February 7th, 2017 at 9:17 pm.

Interview with Scarlett Palomo, J-1 au pair from El Salvador

A version of this story was originally published on AuPairCare.

Scarlett and two high school students in front of Belton New Tech High School in Texas

Scarlett and two high school students in front of Belton New Tech High School in Texas.

When J-1 au pair Scarlett Palomo learned that her area director’s daughter was studying Spanish in her Texas high school, Scarlett jumped at the chance to visit the school and speak with the students. She wanted to tell them about El Salvador, the beautiful country that she knows and loves. The students were beginning a project on Central America, so they were excited to learn about the region from first-hand experience.

The students asked a variety of questions: what life was like in El Salvador, what type of music was considered “traditional,” and whether uniforms were required at school, as well as a few questions regarding the politics of El Salvador. One question that stood out for Scarlett related to the graduation rates for students in El Salvador. After explaining that many students in her home country leave school before graduating to help support their families, she noted the surprised reactions of many students who couldn’t fathom following that path.

Scarlett touring Belton New Tech High School

Scarlett touring Belton New Tech High School

While Scarlett went into the experience primarily to do a lot of sharing, she found that the talk was a great learning experience for her as well. The school was hardly like the traditional American high schools that she had seen in movies, and Scarlett was impressed.

Belton New Tech High School is an “Apple Distinguished School” that focuses on intertwining technology and learning. The building space was different than what she expected. “The school had a ton of open space for collaborating, and they used a lot of visual materials for teaching,” she said. “They also used high end computers to assist in students’ learning and the school was a much more social environment than a ‘typical’ high school.”

Scarlett also took away a better understanding of the academic and team building skills high school students in the United States learn. “Talking with the students at the school showed me that this kind of learning is beneficial because they prepare the students for real life,” Scarlett said. “They will be able to think in teams and help others with these advanced skills.”

Scarlett also has a passion for the au pair program, and answered a few specific questions to help others thinking about becoming au pairs.

Scarlett speaking to a high school class

Scarlett speaking to a high school class

What advice would you give to others who are interested in coming to the U.S. on a J-1 Exchange Visitor Program?

“Make sure you come here with an open mind and to not be judgmental of people. You have to be open to having a conversation about your country and where you are from.”

What does your exchange experience mean to you? What impact has it had on your life?

“I am more patient now and I think cultural exchange is about exposing kids to different cultures at an early age so they will be more receptive to trying new things.”

What was the single most influential and meaningful experience of your J-1 Exchange Visitor Program?

“Going places on my own and trying to explain yourself in another language can be really difficult, but you have to just dive in and give it a try.”

How are you using the skills and knowledge you learned from the program to enact positive change in your country and or reach/achieve your professional goals?

“I now intend to start college, I’ve improved my English, and I understand how people live and work in the United States.”

Categories: Program Spotlight

About G. Kevin Saba

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange

G. Kevin Saba serves as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). In this capacity, he oversees the Exchange Visitor Program, which brings around 300,000 foreign citizens to the United States annually to teach, study, and build skills. He is the Director for the Policy and Program Support Division in ECA’s Office of Private Sector Exchange.

Read More