CiudadEscuela Muchachos (CEMU), which translates to Town-School for Boys and Girls, was founded on the 1st of December in 1970 by Alberto Muñiz Sánchez, known to the community as Tío Alberto, architect, multifaceted artist, and vocational educator. The ultimate goal was to integrate children who have had rough childhoods into society so that they too can serve as functioning members of their communities. These children tend to be labelled as “at risk”. However, Tío Alberto believes that by instilling in them a personal sense of responsibility and power of change, they can become critically engaged citizens and shed themselves of society’s label.
Since the beginning, we have focused our methodology on a socio-educational practice that we call Juego Ciudadano, in English “The Citizen Game.” In order to create a place where every child – regardless of their origin, ethnic background, or religion – who passes through feels welcomed, protected, and accepted, we have built a community of democracy: one in which all opinions are valued, where all contributions are deemed meaningful, and where every child has a real voice. It is for this very reason that children are given such power over their education. They become the facilitators of their daily lives through negotiations, proposals, and programs within an Assembly system that allows them to voice their opinions through a democratic process. We hold municipal elections (children ages 14 to 18 are eligible to run for office) to determine who will be the Mayor each year, along with their corresponding representatives. The children hold campaigns and every CEMUnero may vote, including minor residents, students, volunteers, and adults.
CEMU has been included in the Registry of Practices that Work of the European Commission. Practices that are socially innovative, have a clear theory of change, and have demonstrated their effectiveness through a process of evaluation. These are practices for inclusion in the European Platform for Investing in Children (EPIC). See CEMU profile in EPIC database: