The New Secondary School Scholarship Program

Through the support of the Secondary School Scholarship Program, students in Santiago Atitlan are better able to serve their families, their communities and themselves. As part of their scholarship requirements they tutor younger students and volunteer in community service organizations. In the past two years, twelve students have graduated and begun working in careers such as nursing, education and business administration.

MARVINAfter much investigation, reflection and conversation, we are happy to announce that in 2015 we will be implementing some exciting changes to this long-standing program that will directly benefit students, their families and the community.

These changes will affect how we engage students throughout their schooling and ultimately enhance their capacity to transform their communities. The new application and student contract will be more rigorous, allowing us to locate families with the most limited resources and youths most likely to be future agents of change. Students in the program will now attend monthly workshops on personal and academic development, and receive additional tutoring and career advice. In addition, we have already begun increased home visits to help parents, guardians and students manage the demands of higher education.

SCH_2014-07-06_Maria E_Maria EIt is an exciting time for us, and we want to make sure our donors know that we could not do any of it without you. Our intensified program costs have increased the monthly support per student from about $30 per month ($350 per year) to $40 per month ($500 per year), but any and all donations are greatly appreciated.  Your generosity has helped us complete seven years of scholarships, and we hope you will continue to support these bright stars. Please forward this newsletter to a friend!

You can expect more information about the changes from the students, since they will be communicating directly with their sponsors in 2015. Or feel free to contact us for more information about our program.

Whatever It Takes

Anita Smart

Anita Smart has been the Executive Director of Natik since September 2010, and today is sharing some of the stories of her past week in Natik!

One of the things I love the most about Natik is the amazing ‘whatever it takes’ attitude that seems to prevail among staff, volunteers and locals. On a recent visit to Santiago Atitlan, I had all sorts of ideas for blog posts along those lines, but of course life intervened and here I am back home and didn’t write any of them! Below are some notes and photos instead.

Traveling library
Isaias is the visiting pied piper of books for nine schools that don’t have reading books.  Every day, he selects a bag of books from the Puerta Abierta Library and travels on the back of a pickup truck to a different school because that is the least expensive mode of transport, and he prefers knowing that every possible cent goes into getting more books, not his comfort or convenience.  Then he rallies the children with silly songs and movement and sits on the floor with them so that they can be close for the excitement of reading a book out loud. After the story, he engages the children in an art project. During recess, he sits outside with his bag of books, and because he only goes once a week, the children eagerly cluster around him for the opportunity of having a real book in their hands.
isaias books
Isaias reading
Amanda is the founder and director of Puerta Abierta Library, preschool, kindergarten and first grade, and despite a demanding schedule, still loves to get down on the floor with children in the local public schools for an art project now and then!
amanda art project with kids
Joanne Castronovo has been working with our partners in Zinacantan, Chiapas and traveled with me to visit Santiago, Guatemala. She is a recently retired high school teacher and director, and was delighted to share the joy and excitement of the children at the schools we visited with Isaias.
Joanne reading
joanne art project
Jenn is our current Natik fellow living in Santiago. She is working with several board members in the US to document the craft and embroidery talents of the Just Apparel artisans to create a catalog of design elements that can be shared with designers for developing new products.
jenn photographing artisans work
Just Apparel
Artisans who braved the hot sun for a roof-top general meeting, and had their embroidery and crafts photographed for the menu of design elements.
JA sitting in sun for a meeting
Scholarship Program
Dolores is the coordinator of the scholarship program and would never consider the option of a simple phone call when delivering complicated or difficult information to the families of the scholarship students.  Riding 30 minutes round trip on the back of a pickup truck in the heat of the day for a 15 minute conversation with parents or guardian is simply part of her job, which she does cheerfully, always sensitive to the fact that most of the scholarship families barely speak Spanish, much less understand the bureaucratic minutia of secondary and high schools that their children attend.
D&J home visit

Notes from the Students: Jose


The next student we hear from is Jose! He is practical in his assessments and has no illusions about easy success…

I felt good when I arrived at my first day in elementary school. I was happy because it was my first time in a place where I could learn things I had not learned, and I like to do so.

It was especially not bad that I felt very happy since my first day was a surprise for me: my father and my mother gave me the opportunity to study.

I remember that when I arrived at my first week in middle schooI I felt grateful because reaching this level was a challenge, but also an opportunity. Nothing is given if one does not strain. Challenge allows us to have more success so that we can accomplish something in our lives.

By the time I reached my first day in highschool I almost felt as if I were a teacher myself because I had managed to reach that level of education. In order to arrive at such an place, one has to feel something strongly because it is not easy; in the end one has to suffer to achieve success.