Best Practices

Mayor Hector Luis Acevedo

Estudia Conmigo -- Electronic Library of San Juan

Estudia Conmigo is one of Mayor Hector Luis Acevedo's major initiatives in the area of education. The scarcity of public libraries in the San Juan metro area, the long travel time to those libraries, and their short operating hours impose an undue hardship on students, especially on those from low-income families who usually do not own a dictionary, encyclopedia, or other reference books.

The Mayor's idea for an electronic library came after a group of mothers from a public housing project expressed the need for help for their children with their schoolwork -- since the mothers themselves lacked the academic skills and the economic means to help them. The genuine concern of these mothers promptly evolved into a unique educational project, Estudia Conmigo, Biblioteca Electronica De San Juan (Study with Me, the Electronic Library of San Juan). This project has served as a model for many cities in the United States and Latin America.

To fund a major portion of the capital cost of the project, the Mayor and his staff devoted extensive time and effort to secure the involvement and financial support of local business leaders. Operating such a project is quite simple. The student, through a telephone call to Estudia Conmigo, explains his or her need to specialized personnel ready to assist them. Brief information requests are answered by telephone; more extensive inquires are answered by fax. Fax stations are located throughout the city: at supermarket chain stores, at cooperatives, and at all Municipal Police Stations.

The service is free to all San Juan residents, and can also be accessed from outside city limits. The program fields an average of 1,000 phone calls a day. Demand for the program's services has been so great that additional personnel soon had to be hired. The program is staffed by a wide range of specialized personnel including teachers, librarians and college honor students who process the information as needed. Essential to the program's success is its schedule, particularly the availability of service during night hours and Sundays -- times when students need it most.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (809) 721-0100

Maestro Amigo -- High Technology Study Center

Mayor Acevedo is aware of the increasing needs of economically disadvantaged students for broader, better, free educational services to further academic development that meets competitive standards. This awareness led to the creation of Mi Maestro Amigo, Sala De Estudios De Alta Tecnologia (My Teacher Friend, High Technology Study Center), a novel educational instrument designed to advance the academic careers of San Juan students.

A complement to Estudia Conmigo, Mi Maestro Amigo benefits all students, especially those who lack the economic means for private tutoring or for computer equipment, and whose parents may lack the academic skills to assist them in their school work.

The services of Mi Maestro Amigo are offered to students of elementary, junior high and high schools. At Mi Maestro Amigo, highly qualified professionals and teachers offer tutorial services and specialized workshops in a variety of areas. The main goal is to provide students guidance, assistance and support with their homework and other school requirements. These professionals help the students develop skills, knowledge and interest in school matters in order to enhance their academic goals and expectations, and to prevent them from dropping out.

The program provides each student access to an extensive computer software library, the Internet, a video library, electronic encyclopedias, and other high-tech information systems not available in their schools or homes. In addition, the program offers workshops for parents and other legal guardians on teaching techniques and methods that will enable them to study with their children.

Parents can also benefit from remedial education courses for high school equivalency tests offered under the supervision of a teacher at Mi Maestro Amigo's facilities. The program is housed in spacious study rooms located in the city's Puerto Nuevo Multi-Services Center, within easy reach of students from all parts of San Juan. Mi Maestro Amigo offers a convenient extended service schedule on weekdays and Saturdays.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (809) 721-0100

El Nuevo Milenio -- Model Head Start Center

Head Start centers were established in the 1960's by the federal government to provide socially and economically disadvantaged children with early and comprehensive child development services that prepare them to compete on equal footing with other children. It is noteworthy that the philosophical principles of the Head Start program may be traced back to the Maternal Schools founded in the 1950's by former San Juan Mayor Doľa Felisa RincŚn de Gautier.

Mayor Acevedo wanted to emphasize the city's commitment to the early development of pre-schoolers through a major demonstration effort. El Nuevo Milenio, a comprehensive and technologically advanced model Head Start center, was designed on the basis of this commitment. Sector Playita, an impoverished area, was chosen as the site for the project.

In 1989, Hurricane Hugo had destroyed the Head Start center in this sector. El Nuevo Milenio was designed to provide a happy educational environment for the children of Playita. At the same time, a special curriculum complemented by advanced computer technology was incorporated to the standard pre-school classroom. This curriculum was based on a theory that proposes active learning for pre-school children. As an environmentally based curriculum, it requires a broad spectrum of experiences in order to promote the development of an increasingly complex view of the world. The use of computer technology enhances the ways in which children may explore, experiment, construct concepts, and apply their new knowledge to diverse situations and settings.

The physical structure of El Nuevo Milenio is a combination of wood and concrete, with a structural design and vivid colors that call to mind the fables and fairy tales of childhood. Prominent in the facade of El Nuevo Milenio is a mural by Romero Brito, the famous Brazilian artist.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (809) 721-0100

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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