Notes from the Students: Juana

It’s a universal truth: your teachers are always looking out for you. Thank you, Juana, for sharing a story that proves just that!

JuanaThis is what happened when I started basic level: when I entered the doors of the institution where I was going to be studying, I was very nervous and I felt very alone even though I was accompanied by my mother.

In the middle of the crowd, I found one of my old companions, a friend of mine from primary school, and while I felt a little better, I soon found out we would be in different classes! They said there were three sections of first basic, A, B and C, and my friend was in section C, but I had to stay in section B. I felt very alone again because I was going to be in the class of all strangers.

I was disappointed, but I did like the professors immediately. They were very good and told us of many activities that the institution held in each school circle, so I began to be in a better mood. Later in the day, they took all the graduates of primary school on to the patio of the institution and where I enjoyed a surprise –.they had moved me into primary “C” with my friend. We were going to be together all year!

Once we entered in the class, we sat and soon we found another friend. She introduced herself to us and then we introduced ourselves to her and everyone else in the class. It was an unforgettable day.

Notes from the Students: Juan

Losing friends, gaining friends — it’s always tough. Secondary School Scholarship student Juan reflects on changing schools and how he found support and a new activity that propelled his success.


When I was between schools for the first time, I was scared. I remember my first day of first grade was the worst because no one not spoke to anyone else, and it was a week before we were making friends with the other kids.

I had became accustomed to play with all the people in my grade, and eventually I was happy to study. I knew a girl, who I had fun with, and I played with her during the last three months of study.

I did not return to the same school though, and while my next year was good, I did not participate as much as my first. I had much fear of participating in the different activities.

The only thing that I liked were the School Olympians — it was very fun for me. When I passed the sixth primary, I participated more and more. By the end my teacher and I were well off, and my new friends rejoiced with me when I won my sixth grade. I was proud of my triumph just like my parents. Changing classes the next time, I already had no fear because I knew many friends and we already had much fun.


Welcome to Chiapas: A New Video by Brett Hansen


The above (and below) is by filmmaker Brett Hansen, who after months of filming and editing, produced this wonderful video for Natik. He traveled around San Cristobal and Zinacantan, filming as he went, and his final product should give those who haven’t been to Mexico a taste of the Natik experience.

BrettOnce I had fashioned roller-blade wheels to the frame of my backpack, and removed even more clothes to make room for my camera equipment, I was ready to go to Chiapas.

Filming in Mexico was one of those important experiences. When a friend from RISE Now, had mentioned the possibility of volunteering in Mexico, I accepted immediately. It was not until considering further that I offered to film the experience, both for his program and for a partner program, Natik.

What really stands out to me during that month is the culture. In all of my films, I try to remember that showing is better than telling, and film allows you to do both very effectively.  I enjoyed the challenge of interlacing the interviews I conducted with the Edgewood volunteers and Natik staff with the dozens of shots that were eventually selected for the final project.

Brett filming

Nevertheless, it is the atmosphere I really loved; San Cristobal is diverse vibrant community and a joy to film. The cities, the people, even the graffiti had a vitality and richness that is wonderful to show. Indeed it was difficult not to film, and in all I collected over 500 GB.  Now, having combed through that footage and reflected, I can honestly say how I would love to return and watch more playgrounds being raised from tires, more mushroom gardens sprouting from corn husks, and more volunteers from Chiapas and elsewhere living their lives.

The shot above is one that I never used (at least in this movie), but one that well summarizes my experience in Mexico.  Since time lapse takes so long and I was in a crowded area of San Cristobal, the shot was exhausting. But it is also resonant: slow and deliberate, struggling to capture the whole beautiful scope.

I hope you enjoy the video.

Notes from the Students: Marvin

For our second installment of “Notes from the Students” Marvin shares what it was like on his first day of “ciclo básico,” and how the teachers helped with more than just teaching. Thanks, Marvin!

MARVINOnce I had been in school for a little while, I started studying the course material, but I also considered how the teachers helped with other learning as well.

For example on my first day of my school I did not know my classmates when the bell rang. Already it was time to study, and we did not know each other’s names!

In this moment, I felt lonely because nobody spoke to me, and I didn’t speak with anyone else. We all gathered into a single classroom, and then the first teacher entered and greeted us. After emptying his bag on the table, he introduced himself.

He then asked each of us to introduce him or herself to the class and to ask another student for his or her name.  I made sure to listen, so I could learn the names of each of my classmates.

Little by little, my turn approached. I asked another student his name and he replied, “I am Andres! And you?” he asked me. I answered, “I am Marvin!”

Making use of this questioning was how we began to know each, and soon I knew everybody. I believed when they arrived at school all the students would speak to me and ask me about myself, but this was not so. I think in the moment that it is not easy to speak with a student if he is not your friend or you have never met him. You have to meet before you can become friends.

For more information on the Secondary School Scholarship program, please explore our website!

Notes from the Students: Francisco

The Secondary School Scholarship Program “provides financial assistance to academically motivated junior high and high school students and encourages young leaders to improve the lives of themselves, their families, and their communities.” But what does this mean?

Our new blog series, “Notes for the Students” will aim at introducing some scholarship recipients more personally, using their own words. Below are some evocative recollections from one student, Francisco, about how his life has progressed as a student.

  • FRANCISCOI started studying in 2003. When we had the first evaluation, I was scared because I did not know how to write the letters in order to respond to the questions.
  • In first grade, I studied eagerly and thought of studying as a profession. I hoped that I would get good grades on my evaluations, four a year in each course.
  • When I arrived in middle school, I was nervous as well, but I believed I would finish all three years and get good grades.
  • When we had our closing ceremony, it was a very sad day; I left my best friends. we are not studying together anymore; they took one course and I another.
  • On January 15, 2013, I began studying in high school with an accounting course. I arrived on the first day, started studying and met new friends and new professors. At first, I was afraid to talk to my teachers because they were new and taught in a very different way. They have graduated from college, and they challenge me.