Once a month, Starfish mentors make a visit to the home of each Joven Estrella (young star) in their mentorship group. These visits serve to develop trust between Starfish and the family, and to ensure that each family remains completely united around the vision of an empowered Girl Pioneer.
The members of the Maripositas Soñadoras have only been part of the Starfish program for 6 months, but it’s already starting to have a significant impact. Last quarter, nine of the fifteen girls in this mentorship group had failed at least one class. Grades just came in for this quarter, and that number has dropped to one girl. This week we went out into the field with mentor Yakelin, to visit the Maripositas of Chuacruz and Los Murales.
Evelyn Yulissa is in the 7th grade. She is the oldest of three siblings, and lives with her parents in Chuacruz. Her father (Ricardo) works at a store in Guatemala City and her mother (Rosita) manages the household. Neither of them had the opportunity to study past the 6th grade.
Evelyn, what’s your favorite subject in school?
Evelyn: I like history. I like learning about the Mayans. Our history teacher is wonderful. The way he explains things really makes you pay attention. He makes the material come to life.
In Starfish, my favorite unit so far has been the Communication unit. We learned how to communicate in a clear, direct, respectful way with our families, peers, and teachers. I think that’s really important, and no one had ever talked to me about how to do that before.
Why did you decide that it was important to keep studying this year?
Evelyn: I have a goal. I want to become a professional. I understand that the way to achieve this goal is to work hard and to graduate.
Many parents pull their daughters out of school after the 6th grade. Why did you [parents] decide to continue to encourage and support Evelyn in her studies?
Ricardo: I want her to understand the world works. I want her to know about the history of our country and our people. I think ignorance keeps people stuck where they are, in this cycle of poverty and oppression. I want her to have the opportunity to go as far as she can and I want her to be part of the solution to the problems this country is facing.
Rosita: My dream is that she’s able to become a professional. She says her dream is to be a teacher, which makes me very proud. I want her to have the chance to achieve her goals.
Outside of school, what sorts of things do you like to do [Evelyn]?
Evelyn: I like to sing. I also like to play soccer. I was on a team last year and it was a lot of fun. I’ve been following the World Cup and I’m excited for the game this Sunday. I’m rooting for Argentina!
Yesmy is 13 years old. Her father (Julian) is a day laborer and her mother (Petrona) is a talented artisan. Yesmy is the oldest of their 3 children.
What are your dreams when you were 13 years old?
Julian: I wanted to study, but my dad had an accident when I was 10 years old and so I had to drop out of school to work and help support the family. I try not to dwell on the injustice of that though. I’m focusing on the future. My dreams now are for my kids – that they’re able to study whatever they want, for as long as they want. I want to give them the opportunity to become professionals.
Petrona: I’m the oldest daughter in a family of eleven children. My dad pulled me out of school after the 4th grade to start working. All of my brothers graduated from high school and are professionals now. I am proud of what that I do; designing and creating artisan goods (bags, jewelry, etc.) lets me to use my creativity. But I wish I had been allowed to continue studying so that I could have a job that provides my family with a stable income. There are some weeks where we do well, but there are other weeks where we make nothing. It’s very hard when you want to give your children everything but you’re constantly worried about money.
What’s your dream, Yesmy?
Yesmy: I want to go to college and study business administration and management. My dream is to become a professional and to be able to help support my family.
13-year-old Marta lives in Los Murales. She is one of five children. Her parents work out of their home, weaving traditional cortes (the skirts worn by ingenious women).
How have the last 6 months, since you joined Starfish, been for you?
Marta: They’ve been good. I’m really happy that I get to keep studying. Yakelin is very supportive of all of us and with her help, and the help of the Starfish tutors, I’ve been doing better in school. My favorite subject is history. I like learning about our country’s culture and the history of the Mayans. Math is still challenging for me, but I’m working hard at it.
Did you [parents] have the opportunity to study? What were your dreams when you were Marta’s age?
Lucio: That’s a hard question. It’s challenging to talk about dreams. I think for many people in Guatemala, we start off with big dreams when we are children but over time our lack of resources slowly erases our dreams and replaces them with a repetitive daily routine until they’re gone completely. It’s easier, at a certain point, to just forget about your dreams. If you don’t stop wishing for things that aren’t possible, it makes it harder to do what you need to do to survive. At least that’s how I felt. But I never want my children to feel that way.
Yojana: I agree. I had to leave school after the 2nd grade to help my father sell vegetables. Then he died when I was 10, so I never had the opportunity to return. I feel determined to give Marta and her brothers and sisters the chance to achieve what I wasn’t given the opportunity to. It is not an easy goal – to continue to send them all to school – but it is our most important job and we’re so grateful to Starfish for helping us give our daughter the education she deserves.