Our High School scholarship programme
educate. works to empower children and youth in Honduras through community-driven educational initiatives. In 2017 we started our university scholarship programme, which has been running since then. However, through conversations with families, local educators and young people, a clear need emerged for greater support towards access to high school as well.
In the “zonas cafetaleras” (coffee zones) of Trinidad, Santa Barbara, most schools only go up to 6th grade. After primary school, the majority of students from these communities start to work. According to the World Bank, only 43% of students in Honduras finish 9th grade, let alone their “bachillerato” (12th grade) diploma. In rural areas like Trinidad, this percentage is even lower.
The greatest barrier impeding students from the mountain villages in accessing high school is distance: the high schools in Trinidad center are too far away to walk to, and transport is too expensive. By hiring a minibus, we are able to collect and drop off students each day so that they can attend classes. We also provide uniforms (a requirement in Honduran public schools) and essential school materials.
Aside from a passion to continue their formal education, we seek out students who are also driven to give back to their communities. Our scholars therefore also act as community leaders and role models. Each Saturday, they gather at the Trinidad Youth Center for workshops and community engagement activities focused on arts, literacy and environmental protection.
Ultimately, the goal of this programme is to provide opportunities for young people to pursue their passions, and to catalyse a community of youth who are engaged in driving long-lasting change in their communities.
The Youth Center: how it all began
Meanwhile, the idea for our Youth Center began three years ago through discussions with our university scholars, who lacked a place to gather. In 2019 we visited what had once been the municipal library building of Trinidad, though it had not been in use for over a decade. The visit sparked the idea to begin working with the municipality to open a public library as well as a center for educate.s’ operations.
COVID-19 brought its challenges to setting the project in motion. With schools closed down for two years and elections leading to a new mayor, talks of the Youth Center stopped and started several times. Towards the end of 2021, we formed a relationship with the new municipal government. In February 2022, we signed a formal agreement with the mayor Dr. Allan Paredes to make the project official – and thus the work began!
Scholarship students: the founding group of the Youth Center
Part of the commitment that students make as part of the scholarship programme is attending weekly activities in the Youth Center, led by our local project coordinator Walter Dubon. Walter has been a volunteer with educate. since 2019 and this year began working 3 days a week for the organization in order to lead the youth Center project to fruition, as well as to lead these weekly activities with our scholars and provide student support.
The students cleaned the space, organized over 2500 books, and painted murals across the library’s walls both inside and outside. We were supported by two local artists who taught the students some mural painting skills, which they noted as being amongst the highlights of the Saturday activities.
We averaged a 73% attendance rate on the Saturday activities. One of the challenges students noted was the lack of transport provided on Saturdays (the “school bus” only runs Monday – Friday). One student moved house during the school year which made transport on Saturdays more complicated, and another is a mother to a 1-year-old which also meant she had to miss some Saturdays when her mother was unable to take care of her daughter for her.
What is the Youth Center?
educate.’s Youth Center will be the basis of all of our operations going forwards, providing both a public municipal library as well as a space to bring our scholars together for weekly trainings and activities. Through this new center we plan to provide a space for our scholars and other young people to gather for educational workshops, leadership and entrepreneurship programmes, community engagement activities, and peer-to-peer mentorship and tutoring.
Turning this project into a reality was made possible by three organizations: Wilde Ganzen, Students for Children, and La Vida Foundation. Each brought crucial support in the form of funding for the furniture, the library, the computer lab, and everything else the center needed to become functional.
The inauguration was an incredibly special day, the culmination of over a year of hard work with so many individuals involved. At the inauguration we were joined by representatives from the local municipality and the National Library Network of Honduras, and two of our scholars – Robin Ariel and Cleverson Daniel – shared their experiences in the scholarship programme, while a third – Nely Mahely – read aloud a poem. After the programme ended, teachers in the audience got up to speak about the impact that educate.‘s school-based libraries have had for them and their students.
Now open six days a week to the public, the Youth Center is a place where anyone from Trinidad or the surrounding areas can come and use the space and take out books. What’s more, we now have a basis for our growing scholarship programme to continue bringing our students together every week, and other youth have access to a space to come to study, read, learn and gather
We are so excited for all of the activities this space will open up, from literacy activities to computer science and coding classes and workshops about art, theatre, the environment, and so much more.
Impact assessments: Reflecting on the first year of the programme
Among the benefits of studying at high school, students noted that it will help them achieve better-paying jobs, it supports their personal growth, they get to meet new people and make friends, become better communicators, have greater hope for their futures, be an example for their siblings, stay away from bad influences, and have fun. Several students also noted that, beyond simply going to school, the scholarship programme itself had also helped them build stronger connections and support one another, as they travelled to and from school every day as a group and spent Saturdays together at the Youth Center.
Several students said their families supported them in their education more now that they have this scholarship, as it releases the economic burden on the family and makes it easier for them to support their children in receiving a high school education.
Some of our scholars, despite being a few years away from graduating high school, are beginning to think about attending university as an option, if they continue in the programme.
One of the points of feedback to improve upon is that we need to provide a bus for Saturdays for the Youth Center activities, which was not included in the programme this year (instead, we gave students the bus fare in cash each week). Aside from the lack of transport, students were incredibly positive about the Saturday activities – particularly the mural painting! This had been something new for all of them, and was highlighted again and again as one of their favourite parts of the process of creating the Youth Center.
When asked whether he would like to continue in the programme next year, Cleverson said: “Of course, how could I give up an opportunity like this?”