BY FERNANDO RODRIGUEZ
“When Angels Come to Town” is a story about how one couple changed the lives of hundreds of young students and was a CBS made-for-television movie that aired in 2004.
It could easily have been written about Jacinto and Cecilia Avalos, who arrived in Cabo San Lucas in 1990 from Mexico City.
Jacinto Ávalos and his wonderfully sweet wife, Cecilia Portilla de Ávalos, both grew up in Mexico City, where the mild-mannered Jacinto graduated from the University of Iberoamericana as an architect.
He continued his studies in England where he earned his master’s degree in Urban Design from Oxford Polytechnic. During his 43-year career, Jacinto has designed and built office buildings, restaurants, hotels, churches, and residences around the world.
Cecilia Portilla de Ávalos studied Social Anthropology at the same Iberoamericana University in Mexico City, where she met the man of her dreams. Cecilia served as coordinator of the Community Development Center in Tulyehualco, Tláhuac of México City. Her teaching experience spans more than 40 years in private, public and religious institutions in Mexico, Great Britain and the United States.
“The scholarship program was created to help a boy in need,” said Cecilia Avalos. “He was a leader, a very studious boy, with great potential whose parents were not going to be able to pay for college. It was a shame to have so much talent go to waste for lack of financial resources. We started with one teenager and now we have 106 in the program. And more than 60 who have graduated already.”
What started as a humble and hopeful act of giving, when Cecilia and Jacinto Ávalos, along with two friends, offered that first scholarship and helped that first young man in 2006. Two years later, the dynamic Avalos duo had helped provide more than 30 scholarship recipients with financial assistance to help them realize the dream of studying at a university and earn a degree towards a good-paying career. Then it officially became a certified non-profit organization in 2012.
“Building Baja’s Future’s vision consists, basically, in making changes in the lives of people who have had fewer opportunities than us,” said Jacinto Avalos. “It creates hope by showing them it’s up to them and their work to be successful.”
And what started out with Jacinto and Cecilia’s vision has become a foundation with 52 sponsors who assisted in paying the tuition of 334 students.
“When I was 13, I realized my parents couldn’t afford to pay for college. I had to find alternatives to get that opportunity. I describe BBF as a family, where individuals, human beings and professionals, are raised and shaped to be honest. We have access to things that many young people crave. Many young people dream of having this opportunity. And we thank them for that. It’s very satisfying to see there are still good-hearted people,” said Julio Cesar Castro.
“What I like is the personal involvement we have with every student in the program,” added Cecilia. “Knowing their names, knowing where they live, knowing the difficulties they are going through, getting to know their joys and accomplishments.”
Building Baja’s Future offers a scholarship program that includes 25 different careers such as eco-tourism, accounting architecture, automotive engineering, biochemistry, biology, business administration, civil engineering, environmental sciences, external trade, finance administration and systems operation, physical education, foreign language, gastronomy, graphic design, public relations, industrial psychology, aerospace engineering, interior design, international business law, criminal and civic law, marketing, math, medicine, music, nursing, nutrition, odontology, preschool teachers, elementary school teachers, psychology, tourism administration, veterinary and visual arts.
“When someone like Mrs. Ceci arrives and tells you that you have an opportunity to earn a degree, it completely changes that person’s approach to life. I’ve heard of similar cases like mine many times. The people who I regularly ask are going through the same thing. I once heard, ”I want to study to become a doctor but I won’t because I can’t afford it,” lamented Yessica Cruz. Adding with tears of joy, that ”They changed our lives, and I thank them because I’ve always thought there are very few people that take the time that Mrs. Ceci and Mr. Jacinto take to be with us, the students. And I thank all those people who are helping us. And trusting us.”
Some of the universities that the more than 330 student scholarship recipients have attended include, but are not limited to, The Academy of Culinary Arts, Benemerita Autonoma University Puebla, Institute of Higher Learning La Paz, Institute of Technology Los Cabos, Institute of Technology La Paz, ITES San Jose del Cabo, UNAM Mexico City, Anahuac University, UCBCS, Autonoma University in Chihuahua, and the major university/colleges of Guadalajara, Morelia, Cancun, Tijuana and the State of Sonora.
Ceci Ávalos personally goes to every high school looking for potential students for their program. The qualifying process includes potential recipients filling out an application and turning in several essays. This is then followed by an interview with Mrs. Ceci where they share their goals and dreams. During this time, “We get to know them and they get to know themselves,” noted Cecilia. “This year, we had 115 applicants and from there, we chose 35. We not only pay for their education, but we try to give them what we would give or own children.”
Building Baja’s Future offers every participant life skills seminars and career presentations by industry professionals, and every month they are given an evaluation. The core values the foundation stresses are that every student in their first year follow their dream for themselves then for their family and then for their community. Courses in English are also provided to each student. All of these components support the foundation’s mission of creating opportunities, providing tools and contributing to the development of our Los Cabos youth to help them prosper beyond their current, extremely fragile and limited circumstances. ”We firmly believe that education is the means to transform anyone,” added Jacinto Avalos.
After meeting Jacinto and Cecilia, one comes away with the firm belief that the world and this Cabo San Lucas community have been transformed for the best by the love and dedication of these two wonderful and unique angels on earth.
“Thanks to the generosity of the many individuals and companies that have contributed to our program, we are able to serve many deserving students. We invite you to become a donor and help change the lives of our young scholars,” said Jacinto.
For more information or to become a sponsor, please call (624) 355-4314, or visit their website at buildingbajasfuture.org. ,