College Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Damon Students

Today the UAC-CP celebrates its 25th anniversary!

Planning for the UAC-CP, a college for the rural poor, began in 1990 when Sr. Damon Nolan, FMS, a 12-year veteran educator in the Yungas, concluded that a high school education was not adequate to give the rural poorcontrol over their own destiny.

The initial planning for the College was a joint effort between the Catholic University of Bolivia, the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, the Diocese of Coroico, Bolivia, and the sub-central Villa Nilo—a local governing body of the Aymara Indian nation. (The people of the Nor Yungas are mainly of Aymara or Afro-Bolivian decent who, until 1952, were indentured slaves. Though most of the older people speak Aymara, Spanish is now the dominant language.)  The four groups were united over their concern regarding the nonexistence of higher education for young people in one of South America’s poorest areas.  Building a college, they agreed, would be a way to dismantle educational barriers and lift people out of poverty.

In 1992 an agreement was signed with the local Aymaran farmers’ organization to build the College. Some of the farmers signed the pact with a thumbprint. The College was officially founded on October 4, 1993–the Feast Day of St. Francis.

Since the first group of 54 students enrolled for classes, the College has experienced tremendous growth.  Today, the College annually enrolls approximately 700 students in one of the College’s five specialized degree-granting programs: Veterinary Science, Agronomy, Nursing, Education, and Rural Tourism (Eco-tourism), as well as in the Pre-university program. These areas of study are intentionally offered because they prepare graduates with skills that are applicable to improving the rural Bolivian economy.

During the past 25 years, the UAC-CP has become a vibrant catalyst for change in a region where the average family income is stunningly low.  The first graduates are working to improve the lives of their families and their communities. In addition, the College’s focus on production, research, community service, and leadership formation reach out to the surrounding region.

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