Our sponsored student, Reyna Paola Ruiz Perez, recently graduated from the Tourism program at ITSON. I was lucky enough to first meet this young lady when she was very young, staying during the week while attending school at Hogar Paz y Bien, where I and a group of ladies from San Carlos taught English once a week. Paola was 7 or 8 years old when I first had her in my class. Later I found out she was a student in our Adelante Estudiante sponsorship program, about to graduate from High School (Prepa) and about to lose her sponsor. Her sponsor was getting up there in years and was going to go back to the US so she could take advantage of her health care options there. My husband agreed immediately with my request to sponsor Paola in University.
I was her invited guest at a recent recognition ceremony for students who took additional classes after most of their group graduated. We went to a celebratory supper afterward where she told me she remembered me teaching her songs like Head & Shoulders, Knees & Toes and Wheels on the Bus. She told me that even thought our once a week classes weren't going to make the kids bilingual, they did serve to get her over the fear of learning another language because we made it fun. That was music to my ears. She said she took advantage of every free English class she could attend after that and she speaks pretty good English. She recently landed a job in administration at FAMSA department store. She admits it's an entry level position, but she hopes to climb the ladder while she is learning job skills and working with other people.
It is rewarding when you get to know your sponsored student and their families. Her mother left her with her grandmother as a baby and she has never been in touch since. Paola considers her grandmother as her mom and an uncle as her dad. She lives with them in Fatima and admitted to me that she is afraid because she knows that is a dangerous neighborhood with a lot of drug activity and she doesn't get home until after dark, she has to walk some blocks by herself to get back home.
With all the obstacles she and her family have faced, we're very proud of her for working hard to keep up her grades, for graduating with very good grades and for finding a job and entering the workplace-- which was a scary time for her. Our students not only lack economic resources to advance their education, but they lack contacts to help them get good jobs. We try to help on both counts, but generally, once they graduate, they are on their own.
You go, girl!