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Scholarship Funds UW-Eau Claire Student Project
to Teach Art to Guatemalan Schoolchildren

RELEASED: May 19, 2005

Kristine Norberg surrounded by Guatemalan schoolchildren
Kristine and Karine Norberg
Above, UW-Eau Claire art major Kristine Norberg was surrounded by Guatemalan schoolchildren during a mission group visit in 2002. Below, Norberg (in red) and her sister, Karine, hold an appreciation banner and flowers given to them in thanks for contributions to the school by their mission group. (Contributed photos)

EAU CLAIRE — A University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire junior will spend the summer in Guatemala teaching art to rural elementary-school children and volunteering in a women's prison.

Kristine Norberg, an art major from Milaca, Minn., received the Mary Roelli Hilfiker Experiential Education Scholarship, which provides $1,000 in funding for a service-learning project designed by a student.

The project will allow Norberg to combine her commitment to service and her love for her mother's home country, Guatemala. Doing service work in Guatemala has long been a goal of hers, she said, explaining that her parents met while her father was serving in the country as a Peace Corps volunteer.

"I had made several trips to Guatemala to visit my mother's family during high school and I knew I wanted to go back and find some way of helping people there," said Norberg. "When I heard about this scholarship and the chance to design a service project, I knew it was the perfect fit with what I wanted to do."

Developing the service project was easy for her because serving others is a family tradition, said Norberg, whose father continues to be involved in mission projects and whose mother is a school principal on the Mille Lacs Reservation in northern Minnesota.

Norberg, whose mother encouraged her to use her love of art to design the service project, knew from her aunt, Elizabeth de Chacon, a school teacher in Coban, Guatemala, that the rural schools did not have money for art classes or art supplies. She decided she would like to teach art to these school children.

"Art is such a big part of my life," said Norberg. "I wanted these children to have the chance to find out more about themselves through art. I wanted these children to be able to discover if they might have a passion for it like I did."

Norberg also plans to volunteer at a women's prison with one of her aunts.

"I'll try to provide some emotional and spiritual support to the women in the prison," said Norberg. "Their life is very difficult and they don't get much attention or many visitors."

Norberg's proposal to provide art to children and to visit women in prison fit the criteria of experiential learning the award is designed to encourage, said Mary Hilfiker, who established the scholarship. "I'm pleased that Kristine will have the opportunity to bring some of her talent back to her mother's country."

Hilfiker said she believes experiential learning is important for UW-Eau Claire students like Norberg.

"I know I found the learning I did outside the classroom during college was as important as learning done in the classroom," said Hilfiker. "I benefited from experiences like being involved in student government. Out-of-classroom experiences really helped me to mature and grow as an individual. It's often those experiences that allow a student to succeed later in life."

Norberg will leave for Guatemala in mid-August and will stay with her aunt Antonieta de Chenal in the city of Coban. Coban is a five-hour drive from Guatemala City in central Guatemala. Norberg will assist her aunt Elizabeth, a teacher at Siguanha Elementary School where children learn Spanish and their native Indian language Kekchi.

"My mother's family is wonderfully welcoming," said Norberg. "On my trips there they have taken me in like I've always lived there with them. They are so hospitable."

Norberg, who speaks some Spanish, hopes to learn even more during her three-week stay in the country. She also will write and take photos for an article that will be published in Authentic Travel, a student-produced travel magazine published in Beloit.

Norberg is grateful for the scholarship that is making the trip possible.

"This award has helped me make my dream a reality," said Norberg. "Without it I would have had to work much longer before I'd have had the resources to organize a project like this."



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