Sierra Tarahumara Educational Project
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The Sierra Tarahumara Educational Project (STEP) is an exciting program making a difference in the lives of young people living in the greater Sierra Madre mountains of Chihuahua, Mexico, an area better known as the "Copper Canyon" or "Barranca de Cobre." (Note: We are in the process of changing the name of the foundation from "Rota-Scholars" to the Sierra Tarahumara Educational Project, at present both names are being used).



For Josefina (right) and Esperanza, leaving their ranchito for the first time was a tremendous and frightening experince. Shown here during a brief stop at Divisadero, both girls matured tremendously and were two of the best students at the school in Carichi.


Josefina, Queen of the Cuauhtemoc Tarahumara Rotary Club at the Governor's ball with project manager Doug Rhodes. Josefina has grown tremendously but proudly maintains her Tarahumara heritage.

Working almost exclusively in remote pueblos and ranchitos, STEP provides scholarships to deserving indigenous and mestizo students, most of whom are female Tarahumara Indians. In many cases parents of our students can neither read nor write but they understand that an education is needed for their children to progress - an education that these mostly subsistence-farmer parents are hard-pressed to provide.

Workers associated with STEP have labored almost two decades to help education in the Sierra. In 2007 John Shellenberger headed up a project to obtain tax exempt status for these efforts and enlisted the aid of multiple Rotary Clubs to provide fund-raising and oversight of the program. Scholarship support continues to be mostly from individuals only a few of whom are Rotarians. Everyone is invited to support one or more kids or to just give small donations of non-designated funds that we  can use for helping education of the neediest students.

The impact of our students on their areas cannot be underestimated. One of them works as a secretary for a United Nations project in a remote region, others have returned as teachers and nurses, in 2007 one lady took her final vows as a Catholic Sister and another young lady entered an Order the following year, a young man completed his bachelors degree in nutrition this year and return to work in the Sierra.. These people are bringing and will bring badly needed skills to the Sierra and, more importantly, they serve as role models who prove that an education is possible for even the most humble and poor. Your help is making this possible, please do assist us.

Make a Donation 

Rota-Scholars is a qualified 501(c)(3) organization

Federal tax identification number: 26-0426525.

There are no fees or administrative charges.
100% of all donations are used for scholarships.
For more information write us at:

88 Rowland Way,  Suite 165
Novato, CA. 94945-5042
telephone 415-898-3130
or email us at: