Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Cuban Aid Program Faces Obstacles

A program created at Georgetown three years ago to provide scholarships to Cuban students has struggled to begin operations, since most of the students accepted into the program have been unable to obtain visas to travel to the United States.

Georgetown’s Center for Intercultural Education and Development created the Cuba Scholarship Program in 2003 to provide scholarships for Cuban students seeking technical training at U.S. colleges. Although 20 students were accepted to the program out of about 400 applicants, only two students have been able to attend the program, said CIED Director Paul Silva, who administers the scholarships.

Silva said that establishing a successful educational program with Cuba is difficult because the Cuban government requires its citizens to request and be granted exit visas before leaving the country.

“This is a program that we knew would not be easy,” he said.

Silva said that CIED has contacted the Cuban government in an effort to help the other accepted students obtain their exit visas, but that the task has not been easy.

“We’ve been working very patiently with the Cuban government,” he said. “I’m optimistic, but I’m also realistic. . This is going to be difficult.”

The program was created with an $800,000 grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has helped oversee the effort. University spokesman Erik Smulson said that the university has spent only $112,000 of the funds because participation in the program has been lower than expected.

Silva said that Georgetown does not hold the remaining funding.

Smulson said that the spent funds have been used for the program’s development, application process and as tuition for the two students currently participating.

Silva said that he could not release the names of the two Cuban students or the schools they attend for confidentiality reasons, but said that one attends a school on the East Coast and another is enrolled in the Midwest. He added that one of the students studies agribusiness, while the other studies quality control.

Andrew Cuan (SFS ’08), president of Georgetown’s Cuban American Student Association, said that he was disappointed that the program had not been as successful as expected.

“Most of what we know about Cuba comes from exiles,” Cuan said. “It’s great to learn from Cubans coming to study because they have stories to tell that are totally different from what a lot of us expect to hear about Cuba.”

Smulson said that the program would provide a “mutual benefit” for both the United States and Cuba, adding that the objective of the program is to “develop a new generation of youth leadership who will return to their respective countries and use their skills to develop their communities and country.”

Silva said that Georgetown’s program is not the only educational initiative that has struggled to resonate in Cuba. He said that many development programs have struggled in the country and that USAID does not even have an office in Havana.

“We didn’t approach this naively,” he said. “I’ve run offices around the region, and I’m accustomed to these issues.”

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