Notes from the Students: Roxana

One of the “problems” of education is too much opportunity, or to put it another way, deciding what to be when you grow up! While finances are a concern, it is good to see an excited Roxana of the Secondary School Scholarship Program struggling with possibilities.


When I was four, I already wanted to study, and I was enrolled me in a preschool. I remember singing and dancing while doing my homework.

By the time I was five and six, I started to worry if I could even continue to study in first basic. It was difficult, and I had to study hard to receive good grades. Fortunately, I did, and I won my grades and my dreams.

Excited, I continued on to second basic, where I learned many more things, and when I finished, I began to think which career I was to have. At first I was dreaming of being a nurse, but then it occurred to me to go for a career in physical education since I enjoyed that course so much. Unfortunately, I did not continue in that course because it was too expense to travel. In Santiago though there is a career that interests me — teaching students at the Infant Level. I have also thought to join the university and enter a course as a veterinarian.

These are my dreams and I want fulfill them all. With God first, I hope to complete my goals, end all my studies and to look for employment!

All Virtual Learning: A New Case Study


In 2012, Natik worked with the students of the University of Denver in an all virtual service-learning project. Saran Stewart, then one of the students, now a professor at the University of the West Indies, helped craft a case study of the experience for The Applied Anthropologist). Below she shares some important lessons learned.

A few years ago, Natik connected with a graduate class at the University of Denver, with the hopes of serving as a real-world example in exchange for valuable academic analysis of its programs.  The catch was that unlike most student collaborations, all communications were to be done virtually, through video chats, emails and electronic documents. No one but the instructor had seen these programs in Guatemala or Mexico.

At the time, I was a doctoral student in the college of education taking an international studies course and thus was able to study both the material and the course’s structure. This was the instructor’s first year teaching the said course, and while it was well designed, it would prove to have room for development. To its benefit, the course gave many opportunities for students to engage freely with the material and to examine the premise of virtual service-learning. Seeing members of Natik on screen and watching them discuss challenges as they were happening was edifying, and a brilliant addition to the course.

Poor internet connection, though, in Chiapas, Mexico was a problem, and it challenged the communication in several sessions. Other challenges seemingly occurred due to distance and privilege differentials. The physical distances between us as students in Colorado and the service programs in Guatemala and Mexico meant that we were able to disconnect with the projects once we left class each day.  In addition, by our very presence in a graduate degree program at a private higher education institution, we were privileged both socially and economically.  This sense of privilege would often interfere with our recommendations for improvement of the programs in these countries.  We were unable to get past questions like, are our theories biased, misdirected, or irrelevant, given the context and distance from the programs.

A key takeaway from the course was that Natik certainly had the will to collaborate in respectful and innovative ways. Helping to write this academic article provided an in-depth look into Natik’s methodology. For example, the article has six authors, and the instructor and lead author insisted that each of the author’s voices be heard; the tedious process of editing became a process of true collaboration, and truthfully, it was rewarding.

As more of the world reorganizes around the Internet, what we can see and do from computers has changed, and our ability to discern the limits and potentials of our new and specious omnipresence will determine how well we influence the world.  It is my hope that this article provides a snapshot of a collaborative methodology and the lessons learned about distance and virtual service-learning programs. There is much to be done in this area of development work.

Click here to view the article.

Notes from the Students: Jose

It’s short and sweet, but it hits home. I think there is a great amount of wisdom in what Jose, another student from Santiago Atitlan, says as he describes the socioeconomic issues in his community. Young students like Jose prove the use of development programs: people know what needs to be done, but just require the resources to do it.

Jose eliass7

There are various factors that prevent the inhabitants of Santiago Atitlan from having the opportunity of decent formal jobs. I can think of the following reasons: education, economy and politics.

The problem of education affects much of the accessibility of a decent job. To this day, there are people who do not even know how to read or write, and for me this is the principle cause of why the citizens cannot find work.

It is also often stressed that the economy plays an important role and is an indispensable factor in family and social life. Due to the bad economy people cannot enroll in school, colleges, institution or any other centers of academic formation.

In the end we must not to forget that it is the responsibility of the government to make opportunities for the inhabitants to work. Those that come to power, the mayor and other public functionaries, sometimes forget of the responsibilities to the society, and many of them are corrupt and do not intervene. We need to create small businesses and to make opportunities for employment and, with that, the people can improve the economy, leading to better education, and even more jobs.