By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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Going on to middle school and high school is tough, starting with a long walk and a bus ride.
And since you're needed at home, staying there might seem like the better choice.
But in this rural community in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, there's an incentive to stay in school: the Saturday Children's Program, run by women who are going to high school and college with Mujeres de Maiz Opportunity Foundation scholarships.
The Saturday sessions not only reinforce academic skills, said Mujeres co-founder Judith Pasco, but emphasize literacy in the Maya language, creative projects and environmental stewardship.
Mujeres de Maiz — women of corn, Mexico's staple food — has grown steadily since its founding eight years ago.
Trips to Chiapas
The Sequim-based foundation awards scholarships to young women in Chiapas, who in turn share their skills through the children's program. The nonprofit group also has organized trips to Chiapas so that supporters on the North Olympic Peninsula could meet the scholarship women and see the children's programs in action.
Among those who have traveled to Chiapas are Sequim dermatologist Claire Haycox and retired Sequim art teacher Martha Rudersdorf, who serves on Mujeres' board.
Mujeres de Maiz' scholarship fund, meantime, has flourished thanks to fundraisers back in Sequim: a dinner and auction in November, a Mexican breakfast in March and, in recent years, the Men With Guitars concert.
This Saturday brings the third annual event, with a next generation of singers and guitarists.
The concert, at 7 p.m. at Olympic Theatre Arts, 414 N. Sequim Ave., features the offspring of well-known Sequim men: Forrest Gilchrist, Steve Gilchrist's son; and Kevin Munro, Ron Munro's son.
Sequim-bred musicians Jake Reichner and Gabriel Hatton and Olympic National Park Ranger Dan Campbell will also bring their rock, country and blues to the event, while yet another singer-songwriter, Getta Rogers, will serve as mistress of ceremonies.
It will be a night of songs familiar and new with men who love music enough to keep it in their busy lives.
And Mujeres de Maiz is keeping it simple: $15 suggested donation at the door only, free snacks and wine and beer for sale. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.
“I'm primarily going to play blues covers,” said Campbell, who's been known to sit in with Cort Armstrong at Wind Rose Cellars in Sequim.
Campbell's partner, Neilu Naini, introduced him to Mujeres de Maiz a few years ago — they volunteered at a fundraising dinner — so he decided to join Men With Guitars.
“I thought that it might be a fun way to get involved with the community,” Campbell said.
Kevin Munro and Forrest Gilchrist, both Sequim High School alumni who took Spanish with Pasco, have been singing together since they were teens in a Beatles cover band called the Feables.
Now they live in Seattle and play Friday nights at the 192 Brewing Co. taproom in Kenmore.
Reichner, for his part, is known as a singer-songwriter as well as the Sequim High art teacher who shepherds his students through community projects, most recently the bird sculptures in Sequim's BirdFest BirdQuest game.
To find out more about Men with Guitars or to join the Mujeres de Maiz mailing list, phone 360-683-1651, visit www.MujeresdeMaizOF.org or write to Mujeres at P.O. Box 1954, Sequim, WA 98382.
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.