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Visitors from Cultural Center of Batahola Norte connect communities, inspire students

On Mon., May 1, Archbishop McNicholas High School welcomed visitors from the Cultural Center of Batahola Norte in Managua, Nicaragua. Each spring, representatives from the Cultural Center travel to Cincinnati in order to share the ongoing work of the Center and to strengthen relationships between the people of the Center and McNicholas High School and Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish.  This year, Christina Blebea, Ileana Zuniga, and Ingrid Perez spoke with students in Mr. Norman and Mr. Hutchinson-Smyth’s theology classes as well as Mrs. Wessels’ Spanish classes.

Batahola_visitors.jpgAccording to John Norman, coordinator of the Nicaragua Immersion Trip, the connection between the Cultural Center and McNicholas is strong and deep. “Sr. Margie Navarro, a Sister of St. Joseph, graduated from the St. Joseph Academy (before McNicholas High School in 1951) in 1949,” he said.  “She was a missionary and in 1983, co-founded the Cultural Center.”

Since 2012, McNicholas has been participating in the annual immersion trip to Nicaragua with Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish under the leadership of Sue Keefe. The Cultural Center offers educational opportunities in music, art, dance, English, computer skills, and other job training classes to all ages.

When the 17 McNicholas students and three chaperones travel to Nicaragua in June, all three of this spring’s guests will be part of the immersion experience. Blebea is from the United States serving in Nicaragua as the international liaison for the Cultural Center. She works with groups that travel to Nicaragua in order to visit the Cultural Center and will be the translator for the McNicholas group.

Zuniga is part of the administrative team at the Cultural Center and was one of the original team members after Sr. Margie died. She worked with Sr. Margie from the beginning.

Perez came to the Center as a teenager and was a scholarship student. She came to work at the Center 16 years ago, worked her way up, and is now assistant to the department chair of the Education Department.

“The students were very touched by how Sr. Margie and the Cultural Center have changed Ileana and Ingrid’s lives,” Norman said. “All the students, not just those planning to travel to Nicaragua, were excited by the stories of how the Cultural Center continues to change the lives of many people in Managua.”

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