“Literacy arouses hopes, not only in society as a whole but also the individual who is striving for fulfillment, happiness and personal benefit by learning how to read and write. Literacy…means far more than learning how to read and write… The aim is to transmit…knowledge and promote social participation.” – UNESCO Institute for Education, Hamburg, Germany
Our program consists of three tiers:
1.) ACADEMIC SCHOLARSHIPS
Only 14% of Mayan girls even have access to secondary school. Starfish provides partial scholarships that pay for schooling through middle school and high school to selected young women. Without scholarships, these young women would not be able to attend school past 6th grade.
Primary school directors alert Starfish One-by-One mentors to situations where bright students will be unable to continue into secondary school for financial reasons. Through interviews and home visits with students and parents, Mentors then select students according to:
- Leadership qualities
- Family’s lack of financial ability to continue their education beyond 6th grade
- Student and family’s willingness to commit to the requirements of the Starfish One by One program: meet the rigorous academic standards, attend weekly mentor sessions, and do community service work.
Mentors then form groups of 15 students that stay intact through the duration of middle and high school. These groups combine highly challenging cases (such as a child who at age 14 is the primary breadwinner and caretaker of her family) with other situations where the financial impediment is the primary obstacle to securing a secondary education.
2.) ACCOMPANIMENT OF MENTORS - “Programa PODER”
Studies show that drop out rates rise dramatically when a girl turns 12. This is when the “double burden” (higher costs of education and the fact that she is not generating income) of educating her becomes more acute. Likewise, as she enters puberty families are far more reluctant to let her travel to school or be alone. Her world becomes significantly smaller and she becomes increasingly isolated.
Starfish employs mentors to guide young students through their education. A female Mayan mentor meets with a group of 15 girls on a weekly basis for the duration of middle and high school. In addition to providing academic support, the Mentor works with each girl to strengthen her talents and leadership abilities. Each girl receives powerful information pertaining to a wide-variety of subjects such as reproductive education, personal finance, social responsibility and environmentalism.
The mentor is a woman who is from the same community as the girls and shares their dialect. She also shares the experience of poverty, a large family, and parents who never attended school. Mentor’s are university-level professionals who model the behavior and skills that each girl needs to be an effective professional and leader in her community.
3) THE BRIDGE - “Programa Puente”
Young women in rural Guatemala frequently lack professional role models and guidance to help them identify their unique talents and apply them to a professional field. Frequently, they only know of 2 or 3 professions (doctor, teacher, nurse).
With the help of a Mentor, young women begin to break cultural and generation barriers and create a firm belief in themselves. They also develop a view of the future and a goal to be realized. At this critical juncture Starfish One-by-One provides the support of an entrepreneurial guide who begins to break open the world beyond the program. This guide serves as a compass for each young woman to ensure that she acquires real-world knowledge of business and other professional areas, has access to university and acquires hands on, practical experience in her interest areas. This guide is singularly focused on ensuring that each young woman applies her unique talents for the betterment of herself, her family and her community.
With the support of a career guide, each girl is challenged to create and follow a life plan that outlines her short, medium, and long-term goals. Through setting up opportunities like professional interviews, audits of university classes, internships and employment opportunities, the career guide opens up the professional world that was previously a mystery to the young women in the Starfish program. Upon graduation her graduation from high school and the Starfish program, each young woman is equipped with a plan that makes possible her transition into the role of a professional and leader.