Tag Archives: Oaxaca Learning Center

Itzel Rodriguez Tolis Receives OCN Scholarship at Oaxaca Learning Center

Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC established a named scholarship at the Oaxaca Learning Center a few months ago to give back to the community we love and respect. The scholarship fund is supporting deserving students and mentors from indigenous communities who are either enrolled in or plan to enroll in university.

Education is our driving force. While we organize tours, our primary interest is in cultural and community appreciation, while understanding makers and what they make. We pride ourselves on creating experiences that offer in-depth insights into how people live and and work. Our goal is to give you an immersive experience that takes you into remote villages to meet women, men, and their families who create amazing works of art — textiles, pottery, basketry, food, alebrijes, and more — while giving you an understanding for history, social justice, public policy, and opportunities (or lack thereof) for economic opportunity.

Donate to Friends of Oaxaca Learning Center

Add your tax-deductible donation to the Oaxaca Cultural Navigator Scholarship Fund

This is why we chose to support the Oaxaca Learning Center. We are investing in the future of Oaxaca. The receipient of our first scholarship is Itzel Rodriguez Tolis, from San Mateo Cajonos, a Zapotec-speaking silk weaving village about 2-1/2 hours from Oaxaca City.

On her application, Itzel Says …

My name is Itzel Rodriguez Tolis, I was born on April 29, 2005, so I am 18 years old. I am originally from the community of San Mateo Cajonos, Villa Alta Oaxaca, located in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca. My parents are Emilio Rodriguez Martinez and Sandra Tolis Baltazar, and I have two brothers named Yanneth Rodriguez Tolis and Abner Jediael Rodriguez Tolis.

I attended “Unión y Progreso Primary School” in said community. During this time, I was learning the mother tongue of my community, which is Zapotec, and thanks to the fact that my parents taught me, I am very proud to speak my native language. Then I attended Telesecundaria. During my academic stay there was a need for more teachers, and this had an impact since we only had a single teacher who taught us all the subjects. Despite this, I gave my best effort to learn. I developed various workshops, one of them was composing music Zapotec. The teachers who came from the city learned to pronounce some words in our native language. I also participated in basketball tournaments. During my studies, I was months away from completing Telesecundaria when classes were suspended due to covid-19. This affected us, since classes were then given online, and internet connection in my community was very slow. Some of us did not have cell phones and computers to enter the online classes. To continue with my studies at an academic level, I felt the need to leave my community since it does not have this higher level.

So I had to study high school in San Pedro Cajonos, Villa Alta, Oaxaca, which is one hour from my village. A very important detail here is transportation since it was very expensive, so I couldn’t return home every day. Because of this I had another expense to live at the school and pay a special fee.

I started working during vacations to financially help my parents, since it was an expense that they incurred for me. I completed my high school degree, from which I graduated with an average of 9.5 (out of 10), but even there my dreams did not end. I wanted to continue studying. I am enrolled at the Technological Institute University of the State of Oaxaca, studying civil engineering.

The expenses that my parents have to cover for tuition, room and board are not enough. The support from this scholarship fund will help to support my studies. I am also aware that I have a sister who is studying at the university and my brother who is in high school. My parents are unable to support the education for all three of us. I do not have any financial support from the university I attend. That’s why I always look for a way to reduce my expenses as much as possible. For example, I always bring my own food to university and I try not to buy food there, in order to save a little.

I am aware that studying a career involves many expenses and sacrifices. For this reason, I ask that my request for this scholarship be considered. I could contribute to my community by teaching summer classes during my vacations, so I would talk to the municipal authority so that they can grant the possibility of teaching classes. I am writing to you in order to request a Financial Scholarship that will allow me to continue my studies and achieve my academic and professional goals. I thank you in advance for considering my application and will be happy to provide any additional information required to evaluate my application. And I’m waiting for a favorable response.


Itzel exemplifies many who come from remote indigenous villages where higher education is not the norm, and where financial constraints discourage young people from going beyond an eighth grade education. We are so pleased that the Oaxaca Learning Center selected her to receive the Oaxaca Cultural Navigator Scholarship Fund to support her drive, ambition, and talent. She will be a role model and mentor for other young people in her community who want to know and do more.

One of our criteria was to ask that a student be selected to give back to their community. Itzel will do that as she returns during vacation to teach and mentor others.

We hope you join us in making a generous year-end donation to the Oaxaca Learning Center. Thank you.

Giving Back: Oaxaca Learning Center Scholarship Funded by Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC

We have just established a Friends of the Oaxaca Learning Center (FOLC) named scholarship fund that will support underserved Oaxaca students to further their university education. Our goal is to help encourage young people and advance their communities. We’ve been working on this over the past several months with FOLC board president Bob Anyon and Jaasiel Quero, Oaxaca Learning Center executive director. Some of you may remember Gary Titus, a transformative visionary. He co-founded the Oaxaca Learning Center (OLC) with Jaasiel in 2005. Gary passed away in December 2015 following a progressive illness, but his legacy continues.

Oaxaca is the second poorest state in Mexico following Chiapas. Access to even basic education is limited, especially in rural communities. Advanced education is almost unheard of, even in villages within driving distance to Oaxaca city. We aim to change this paradigm.

Eric Chavez Santiago, co-owner of Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC, and I decided that we wanted to do even more to give back to the communities where we bring visitors and support artisans directly. We want to encourage the next generation to further their dreams. As educators, we know how important a university education can be for creating possibilities to further economic opportunity and stability.

Add to the tax-deductible Scholarship Fund to help us make an even bigger impact.

Please note this is for the Oaxaca Cultural Navigator Scholarship Fund!

We have agreed that OLC will select the most deserving student(s) and manage the award. From time to time, we will meet with the award recipient(s) to learn more about their personal hopes and dreams, to recognize them for their accomplishments, and to share this with you, our readers.

The Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC Scholarship Fund will support students and/or tutors who:

  • Are from areas where we have artisan relationships, including but not limited to Tlacolula de Matamoros, Teotitlan del Valle, San Marcos Tlapazola, San Pablo Villa de Mitla, Ocotlan de Morelos and surrounding villages, Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, Santiago Matatlan, San Pedro Cajonos, San Mateo del Mar, The Mixteca Alta and Triqui communities, Pinotepa de Don Luis, and San Juan Colorado.
  • Demonstrate academic excellence and a will to complete their education and graduate.
  • Are university or high school students.
  • Are committed to giving back to their communities through advocacy, capacity building, and social justice.

Some students participate online because their communities are some distance from the city, where the Center is located.

The scholarship fund would also include the extra training and support students need with job skills, resume writing, practical skills, transportation and incidentals to be determined by OLC staff.

We have established this as an annual expendable fund that can be renewed each year.

Our Hope! Contributions to this scholarship fund are tax-deductible in the USA when made through the Friends of the Oaxaca Learning Center, which is a USA 501(C)3 not-for-profit organization. We hope and encourage you to augment our efforts to give back to Oaxaca communities by making a 2023 Donation — just in time for year-end giving! Your gift can double or triple our impact and make a difference in more than one student’s life! Please note your gift is for the Oaxaca Cultural Navigator Scholarship Fund!

  • $50 supports university acceptance prep course
  • $140 funds a month of classes, tutoring & workshops
  • $550 covers scholarships for meals and transportation
  • $1,500 funds classes, tutoring, & workshops for one year
  • $5,000 supports two tutors´ annual salary

Thank you for all your support over the years. Your loyalty has helped make this scholarship fund a reality.

A Worthy End-of-Year Gift of Education: Oaxaca Learning Center

I received this message from Gary Titus, who has made a commitment over many years to educate Oaxaca children and prepare them to go on to university. This is a legitimate and worthy organization.  I want to share his message with you:

From Gary Titus–Greetings from the Friends of the Oaxaca Learning Center

2011 has been another very good year at The Learning Center. Student demand for our tutoring and for our summer session has continued to grow as word spreads of the effectiveness of our programs. Our donors, volunteers and visitors to the Center experience the enormous difference that being a part of the Center makes in the lives of our students and are advocating for us with their friends to extend our support network. Now we write to all of you who, at one time or another, have connected with us, to ask for your financial support.

“Our summer program, which served 113 students, was evaluated for the first time after our Center Director, Sonia Bautista, attended a six-week workshop given by two retired program officers of the Ford Foundation living in Oaxaca. The course focused on monitoring and evaluation of social projects, with the goal of assisting local NGO’s in developing these capabilities. The results of our first evaluation indicated beneficiaries’ high level of satisfaction with the academic tutoring, English courses and workshops this summer. In addition to staff and tutors receiving feedback on their performance and effectiveness, we expect to use these new quantitative and qualitative tools to support formal proposals to foundations for expanded financial assistance, as well as to then provide them with reliable evaluation of the benefits of their support. This should allow us to enhance your individual contributions with foundation monies and allow the Center to serve an increasing number of students.

Tutoring math at the Oaxaca Learning Center

In a state where completion of high school by low-income and indigenous students is very low, the fact that 30 of the 46 participants this year in our preparation courses for university entrance exams were admitted to universities in the fall attests to the life-changing difference our program makes in students’ lives.

In spite of our program’s effectiveness, the continuing negative press about Mexico has had a deleterious financial impact on us. Occupancy of our bed and breakfast, which has provided about 40% of our yearly budget, has been well below capacity. This, coupled with the worldwide economic crisis, has resulted in a slight decrease in donations, as well. In fact, as many of you know, Oaxaca is a very safe place with a wonderful climate and welcoming, friendly atmosphere. We hope that our expanded quarterly newsletter will bring you our good news from Mexico and allow you to experience the positive impact and achievements of the Center.

Oaxaca Learning Center students

We are now asking you to become a financial donor to our new “Friends of the Oaxaca Learning Center,” which, with its 501(c)(3) status, can offer you a tax credit. Please remember that 100% of your donation goes to support the stipends for our students and student staff. For your convenience, we offer three ways to donate:

You can send a personal check to:

Friends of the Oaxaca Learning Center (FOLC)

P. O. Box 926

Blue Hill, Maine 04614

Make a donation through PayPal by clicking here:


You can also make regular automatic monthly donations. Please contact Gary Titus at gary@tolc.org.mx for the electronic transfer information.

Gary Titus with center tutors

On behalf of everyone here at The Oaxaca Learning Center, we thank you for your support and send you our very best wishes for the holiday season and for the new year!

Gary Titus                                                             Fay Henderson de Diaz

Founder, The Oaxaca Learning Center        President, Friends of the Oaxaca Learning Center

Visitor Talks About Safety: Quiet and Calm in Oaxaca

I asked Gary Titus, director of the Oaxaca Learning Center, if I could post his email message to me about safety and he agreed.


Here is a letter from a recent guest at the Oaxaca Learning Center Bed and Breakfast:

Hi, I am Susan Moore.  I was talking to the center’s organizer, Gary Titus, recently and he told me that reservations at the Center’s bed and breakfast are down, owing to the recent press about Mexican drug violence. Though I understand that parts of Mexico are indeed dangerous, especially the northern border areas, the area around Oaxaca is quite calm. I was there for two weeks this spring – a single woman traveling alone — and found the people friendly, helpful and eager to share their culture. In fact, they couldn’t have been more courteous.

Oaxaca is a famously beautiful city, with a rich history and colorful culture, and staying at the Center’s bed and breakfast is a great way to experience it. Gary and his staff are wonderful – and English-speaking – guides, which is very helpful for trip planning.

But the Center’s real work is to prepare indigenous high school students for further studies, and it is profits from the bed and breakfast that offer stipends for the young tutors. As a guest there you can interact with the students and have a cultural exchange, or you can choose to simply sight see and take advantage of the Center’s great location in the central historic district.


Dear Friends,

“Oaxaca is one of our planet’s magical places, and this is a great time to enjoy it!  Contrary to what you might hear about Mexico in the US media, Oaxaca is safe and beautiful.  Come and stay with us at the Oaxaca Learning Center’s Bed and Breakfast or in our rooftop apartment.

“And take advantage of our July through September special: a free cooking class with our chef Andrés with every reservation!

“So plan to take your vacation this year in Oaxaca and stay at the Oaxaca Learning Center. It’s a vacation you can feel good about on many levels. Don’t miss it! ”

Gary Titus, Director, Oaxaca Learning Center


Volunteering in Oaxaca With Families and Children

A question recently came to me from a reader who wanted information about organizations doing educational work with families.  She is a kindergarten teacher and interested in school preparedness and community involvement in education.  She and her husband are planning to live in Oaxaca for four months before she starts a master’s degree program and he begins work at a U.S. law firm.  She wants to do some meaningful volunteer work in Oaxaca during their stay.  They also asked for recommendations about where to live in Oaxaca city.

I put the word out to my information source and inspiration, Roberta Christie, and together we came up with this resource list:

  • Oaxaca Lending Library, a gringo-center for information sharing and programs, is a good reference point for where to stay and who to connect with. There is a miminal membership fee.   www.oaxlibrary.com
  • Oaxaca Learning Center and Bed and Breakfast, operated by Gary Titus.  The B&B fees help support young people from rural poor areas to stay in school.  http://www.tolc.org.mex
  • Libros Para Pueblos puts libraries in schools or community centers in rural areas.  www.librosparapueblos.com

If you want to have a rural village stay, then book at Las Granadas Bed & Breakfast in Teotitlan del Valle. www.lasgranadasoaxaca.com