Former President of Mexico Vicente Fox spoke with students at John Burroughs High School on Friday, March 29, after he was inspired by work members of the school’s Build A Miracle club have been doing for years, building and furnishing homes in the poverty-stricken El Florido area of Tijuana.
Fox spoke with a group of students, including members of the Build A Miracle club, Habitat For Humanity club, students from AP Spanish classes and some of the school’s English learners, according to Burroughs Principal Deborah Madrigal.
Build A Miracle (BAM) club president Jack Weerts introduced Fox, who started off acknowledging the efforts of the BAM club members.
“This club defined their purpose with their work in Tijuana,” Fox said. “They wanted to show themselves that they could change the world. And yes, you can change the world with big ideas, but you can also change the world step by step in the small leadership actions like the ones these students are doing in Tijuana. One home among millions of homes for one person, one family makes a difference.”
“The shortcut to happiness is doing for others. That is the only way our actions will transcend when we involve others and that is also the shortcut to accomplishment,” Fox continued. “When a leader has a cause and that leader is coming from compassion, there is no limit to what you can do and how far you can get.”
“We are mighty powerful within. Usually when we speak about leadership, we speak about others. Be yourselves and recognize yourselves as leaders and do your work. Purpose must come together with performance,” he said. “We all dream. The American dream that we dream for our family, we dream for ourselves and we dream for our futures. We plan. We try to build up our path to where we want to go and we should try to get there with compassion and determination.”
Since leaving the Mexican Presidency in 2006, Fox has put his efforts into Centro Fox, also known as the Vicente Fox Center of Studies, Library and Museum, located in his home state of Guanajuanto. He told the JBHS students how non-profit work and his work with Centro Fox has been a great passion for him.
Fox also spoke about how important it is to set goals, no matter what it is one does in life. He credited his goal-setting with working his way up to heading the Latin American division of Coca-Cola, becoming Governor of Guanajuanto and, ultimately, President of Mexico.
He also talked about the importance of education and the challenges in Mexico, noting more young people are getting more education now than in the past.
“There is only one way that you can change a nation in one generation and that is through education.,” Fox stated. “There is no other way to have successful nations, successful economies and a successful life with hope. So congratulate yourselves because you’re in school.”
“It was very inspirational and quite an honor to have him speaking to our students,” commented Madrigal. “He thanked the BAM club for all the work they have done over the years. When he spoke to the students he focused on how they can be leaders and how if they have compassion and a clear goal, they can accomplish anything.”
“Getting the opportunity to hear Vicente Fox come and speak to us was truly an incredible experience,” said senior Billie Erickson, who’s been volunteering with BAM since she was a freshman. “Hearing his inspirational story about finding purpose and working towards the betterment of mankind and civilization has truly sparked a drive in me to spread more love and care to the world.”
“I have experienced Vicente Fox’s work up close, as I used to live down in Oaxaca, Mexico, while my family and I served as missionaries down in the orphanages, building communities. I’ve seen just how much a single person can change lives and serve as a leader, precisely as Vicente Fox has demonstrated to us young adults. For that, I convey an undying gratitude for the example he sets for people everywhere.”
“The Build A Miracle Foundation has acted as a bridge between the communities down in Tijuana and the students in the club at JBHS,” Erickson added. “We get to see up close how our actions impact other people, and we connect and build lasting relationships with the families in Mexico and with each other.”
“The work we experience through BAM is unlike anything I’ve done throughout high school. I greatly look forward to the next trip down to Mexico, and all the good it shall bring.”
“I was so inspired by President Fox’s passion about his causes: healthcare, infrastructure, education and the creation of new leaders,” commented Weerts, a senior who’s been with BAM for three years and has visited Mexico eight times to help with the work. Weerts’ sister Maddie, a junior Psychology/Spanish major at UCSD, started the BAM club at Burroughs High School.
“The entire room was (unsurprisingly) invested and interested in what President Fox had to say and the questions posed by the students reflected their interest in being leaders in their own community and beyond,” he added. “One of the things that stood out most to me was when he spoke about doing what you’re passionate about in helping others and the money will come.”
For the past twenty years, the Build A Miracle Foundation has building homes and changing lives in the impoverished El Florido community outside Tijuana, Mexico. Every family who gets a house through the Foundation must commit to making sure their children complete high school.
BAM provides educational support through their community center for both children and adults, and finds donors to assist children who want to attend college. A year in most Mexican universities averages $1500 and BAM has a dozen students currently pursuing higher education.
Last fall, the JBHS BAM club learned that there were families living at the dump in El Florido whose children had never attended school. The club raised money to purchase backpacks and school supplies for the students.
Burroughs students have raised over $12,000 to furnish three homes over the past three years and are in the midst of trying to raise $15,000 to both build and furnish a new home by the summer.
The JBHS BAM club has set up an online fundraiser to help reach their goal and more information can be found here. To date, the campaign has raised just over $6000 in both online and offline donations. The students also recently gave a presentation on their efforts at a Burbank City Council meeting.
“Fox’s message about becoming a better leader resonated with myself and many other people,” commented senior Grace Vinyard, who has been a member of BAM for three years. “He emphasized the importance of working together with other people and connecting heart to heart with others. He also talked about how anyone and everyone can be a leader, and that even people who are less comfortable leading others can guide in any aspect.”
“Every time we travel down to Mexico, we help others build houses, but we inspire them to help themselves and their communities,” she also said. “Fox’s leadership inspiration translates into the action we would like to take in Mexico.”