Over the last year I have learned how to value education even more than I did before. I have seen how just a little education can light a fire and turn around someone’s life. I have seen how a little education can give confidence to a mother to take her child to a hospital to save the child’s life. And I have watched the twinkle of hope flow into young bodies as they realize that they can dream for the first time of a future different from working in the fields until your body fails you from years of hot sun and back breaking work.
And so our hope has been to make our school available to anyone who has a desire to lift themselves out of their current life and press on. Our school is different. It is not easy. It requires work. And if you don’t have intrinsic motivation, you may not finish. But what is also different about our school is that we want these students to be leaders within their communities, to learn to serve others with gentleness and compassion, and to not be afraid of leading a different life than many of the adolescents that surround them. Pregnancy and drunkenness are often the norms in adolescent life here and our students have decided to continue with their education in hopes of breaking the cycles that engulf so many here.
To do this we have created a work program where students can earn a partial scholarship that will pay for their schooling. As part of their program, they work at the school to earn their scholarship. In dollars, school costs $60 a month. The students who are in the work program pay $15 a month and then work 30 total hours during the month to pay for the rest of their schooling. They may tutor other students, keep the grounds clean and the grass cut, wash dishes in the café, sweep and mop or any other odd things that need done around the school depending on our needs.
Last year we had three students in our work program that each had their own story. Each who wouldn’t have been able to go to school without this opportunity. All who were bright and capable and motivated. We have completed registration for our next class and have more students who applied for our work program than the funds to cover their costs. Essentially if the students don’t pay, then we don’t have income to cover the costs of the Guatemalan teachers who are paid. We had planned on limiting the number of students in our work program, but as we sorted through the applications, we know many of the families. We know that the students truly can’t afford the cost of school. We are reminded that we began this school for those students who could not afford to go to the capital to study or to another town. We began this school to reach those students who lay in bed wishing they had an opportunity for education and are more than capable. And so we are trusting God to supply the needs for them to go to school. If you would personally like to support one of these students with either a partial or a full scholarship ($450 a year), we are looking for others that want to raise the education level in an area that is desperate for true education.
Pedro came to us walking from the mountain to the south. In each of his schools before he had been taunted and mocked because of how serious he was about education. He has a thirst for knowledge like I have seen only a few times before. He reads physics books for fun yet has the gentlest spirit. He is most often found tutoring his classmates and is at the school from sunup until sundown because the school has become his personal safe haven. His favorite students to help are those who struggle the most and he is constantly encouraging his classmates. He has the ability to study engineering or mathematics for his future, but humbly replies that he will study whatever door God opens for him. His father is a pastor whose income is very little and is known for giving away much of what they have. He easily sits atop the class academically and his future is directed completely by the doors that God opens.
Ana came to us from another area of Guatemala. She had worked for a year saving her wages to enroll in our auxiliary nursing program. When this program grew to become a professional nursing program, she had only enough money saved for the first year. Since she is from another area, she also pays for her room and food, which doubles her financial need. She comes from a family of 11 and they are helping her to pay for this portion and the work program allows her to pay for her academic portion. For a young girl to leave her family, move to a new area and be completely on her own is very counter-cultural. She is quiet and shy and often lacks confidence because she is a perfectionist. Academically she finished second in her class last year and is another child that is gifted, yet without this opportunity, she would not have an opportunity to finish her schooling. She has dreams for herself and has often had tears in her eyes as she speaks of wanting to continue on with her education.
Raquel is a different success story. She is from a village to the north east and received her education completely in this village. When she reached “junior high” there were only two students in her class and her teacher had about the same level of education as she did. I remember seeing her face at each meeting where we announced the direction of the school last year and she found herself in a seat on the first day of class. She hadn’t been in school for a few years because there was no program that she could afford. She was the first to apply for our work program knowing that this was the only way she would be able to pay for her schooling. As the year began, she was one of the students that struggled the most. A combination from being out of school a few years, lacking confidence in her abilities and seeing others around her succeed while she was seriously struggling threatened to keep her from finishing out the year. But she persevered when the switch went off in her head and she realized she really could do this. She studied relentlessly building her base in math and language to be at the necessary level and was easily our most improved student throughout the year last year. Her smile lights up a room and she is truly grateful for the opportunity to pursue more education.
**Names have been changed to protect their identity
There are more stories like this from our students. For me it was a privilege to watch their growth thorughut the year as they embraced their new opportunity. If you feel called to help support the new students asking for scholarships, their stories can be added to these others as we aim to provide an education for all who dream of breaking out of their cycles of poverty.