Caitlin Schoenfelder ’09 has received a Princeton in Latin America fellowship to work with a nongovernmental organization (NGO) in Mexico for the 2010-11 year.

Schoenfelder, a politics major and Truman Scholar from La Grande, Ore., is Whitman’s first recipient of the award in the college’s inaugural year of participation in the PILA program.

PILA awards fellowship opportunities throughout Latin America, placing college graduates in year-long, service-oriented positions at NGOs and community-based service organizations. For most positions, knowledge of the local language (Spanish, Portuguese or French) is required. 

Schoenfelder, who minored in Latin American studies and speaks Spanish, will work with Convivencia Educativa, an NGO that assists rural schools, particularly in the area of teacher development, throughout four states in Mexico. She will be based in Puebla. 

“The philosophy of the organization draws heavily from the principles of  [Brazilian educator] Paulo Freire and other constructivist models of education, which was the focus of my senior thesis,” said Schoenfelder. “I don't think I could have designed a fellowship more tailored to the main academic and social interests I developed while at Whitman.”

As one of Convivencia Educativa’s "tutors," Schoenfelder will travel regularly to schools in rural areas to work directly with teachers. 

“After spending a good deal of my senior year considering similar theories of education, I am very excited to experience their practice in the context of public classrooms and rural environments in Mexico,” she said.

During her four years at Whitman, Schoenfelder was a bilingual tutor, a researcher for the “State of the State for Washington’s Latinos” project and one of the student founders of Justice Beyond Borders, a project that took Whitman students to communities throughout Eastern Washington to study immigration issues. 

Schoenfelder also served as an education coordinator intern at CASA Latina Day Worker Center and a research and communications intern in the Office of the Education Ombudsman under Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire. She won a Truman Scholarship in 2008, her junior year at Whitman.