Monday, October 24, 2011

scholarships. scholarships. scholarships.

Twice a year, CPF publishes the Scholarship Partners Newsletter. It's a simple (read: short!), but effective way to keep our scholarship donors connected to the students who benefit from people's amazing generosity*.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I believe scholarships are the single most effective way to help students stay in school, study, graduate, and become effective members of not just their home communities, but the global world.  The stories of our graduates and former students explicitly tell us this. 

It's also important to tell the stories of current students who receive scholarships--the fortunate and chosen few (I'll be blunt: the more $$ we have, the more scholarships we can give!) who have dreams that, because of education, are within their reach.  Incredible stories of young people who, despite amazing odds, are making change happen.

So, without further ado: I share the Fall 2011 Scholarship Partners Newsletter, which is now available online for everyone to read.

*You can be generous at any level! $10, $15, $25... Be a part of the change, make a gift to CPF's Scholarship Partners Fund.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

lucia cuno

I'm not convinced that there are many things that can change your destiny when you're born into poverty.  Except, of course, for education.  And I think Lucia Cuno, a 2010 graduate of the UAC-CP Education Program, is an example of that.

In 1982, Lucia was the first of four children born into the Cuno family--a family which she describes as very poor with few economic resources ("We live hand to mouth," she said). Her mother sells small items like juice and popcorn and candies outside the local school where Lucia and her three younger siblings have all studied. Her father is a farmer and, at times, is employed as a construction worker in their hometown of Guanay--located approximately nine hours from Bolivia's capital city of La Paz (by way of a narrow, dusty road that twists and turns through the mountains of the Yungas).

Lucia's life may not have turned out too different from that of her parents had she not had such a desire to be educated.  That said, education wasn't easily accessible; she has fought hard each step of the way against social norms and economic hardships to obtain her degrees.

Her father, she explained, was never supportive of her decision to go to school past the 8th grade. "He would say, 'Why bother going to school? You are a woman. You will just end up marrying someone and working at home." But Lucia wasn't willing to accept that as her destiny; and neither was her mother.

"I remember," Lucia said, "that my mom would say she would do anything possible to make sure that I would get an education. She said it didn't matter if we eat stale bread every day--we would somehow find the money to pay for the costs associated with school." Together, in fact, they worked extra hard to make rellenos (a fried pastry or potatoes stuff with a stew-like mixture) and sold them to Lucia's classmates during recess at school.

Their work paid off and Lucia did what many in her family thought was the impossible: she graduated from high school. At that point, many people thought that is where her educational road would end, but she kept on going. Despite fears that the already subsidized tuition would be unaffordable, Lucia registered for classes at the UAC-CP in 2003. With good grades, hard work, and responsible behavior, Lucia was awarded a scholarship at the College--financial assistance for food and tuition and housing that she credits for giving her the chance to study at the college level.

In 2010, Lucia defended her thesis (she did a study about dyslexia in two elementary schools in her hometown) and graduated from the College's Education Department. Since then she has been working full-time as a secretary at the UAC-CP and working her way through a master's degree program in Research Methods. She has also been teaching classes at the UAC-CP and one other university in La Paz. All the while, she has been thinking of how to achieve her ultimate career goal of getting her master's in special education--a field that is relatively unheard of in Bolivia's rural area.

Now, Lucia is one step closer to realizing her dream. Two months ago she was nominated to do a teaching internship at Adams Spanish Immersion School in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Since 2005, Adams School has invited one or two UAC-CP students/graduates to work as teaching assistants and live with a host family.)  This morning she boarded a plane for the first time in her 29-year-old life bound for the Twin Cities--where she will embark on a new educational opportunity of teaching in an elementary school and learning English. Hopefully she will also get some practical experience in special education.

In her application to participate in the intern program, Lucia wrote that in order to get where she is today, she has had to overcome a lot of challenges and obstacles (two words, I think, that can't even begin to indicate the significance of her achievements). "All of which," she wrote in her opening paragraph, "taught me that it's possible to get anything in life."

Lucia is a young woman who I admire a great deal. Mostly, I admire her determination in the face of great adversity; I admire her for believing in herself, her unwavering tenacity to never give up, and her ability to see the possibilities of improving life through education. She is also the reason why I believe the UAC-CP is such an incredible place, as it provides young women (and men!) like Lucia with the educational resources necessary to change their destiny.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Agronomy Department Celebrates

Today the College's Agronomy Department celebrates 18 years of preparing young people to be agronomists--an amazing and inspiring achievement when you consider the College's humble beginnings and challenges that continue to face the small, but growing institution.

Eighteen years ago, there were just 54 students registered at the College, which was only able to give degrees at the technical level. Today, there are more than 750 students registered for classes and thesis work--the vast majority of them (241) study in the Agronomy Department and graduate with the equivalent of an undergraduate degree.

In the past three years, the College has started tracking graduates more closely--paying particular attention to their work and their post-graduate studies.  What we have discovered as we follow our graduates is that they are doing really different and amazing things!  Examples?  Here are just a few:

UAC-CP Agronomy graduate René Villca is the director of FUNDACOM.

Angel Rolando Endara received his PhD from the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México in 2010. He writes: "My time at the UAC-CP was the most beautiful experience of my life. Carmen Pampa taught me to mature as a person and as a professional. I recovered important values at the UAC-CP--for example, the commitment of working for our people and the desire to work in the countryside and for the people of the countryside."

René Villca Huanaco, current master's degree candidate, is the director of FUNDACOM. FUNDACOM is an association of UAC-CP graduates who manage various projects within three municipalities.  Their work primarily consists of providing training for farmers in apiculture, building and selling apiculture materials, and processing honey which is then sold to the Bolivian government’s food subsidy program. He says, "If it wasn't for the UAC-CP, I wouldn't have been able to study at the college level. The UAC-CP provided me with the professional and practical training necessary to succeed."

Pamela Rocha Valdivia is currently working on her master's degree at the Universidad Privada Boliviana. Since graduating in 2008 she has worked as a consultant for such organizations as USAID, CARITAS, and the United Nations.  She says:  "I think the most important thing about the UAC-CP, even apart from living the mission and vision of the College, is putting into practice the life lessons that we take away from our education."

Danitza Ramos Pardo works for a micro-finance lending institution. Danizta writes: "Had I not studied at the College I wouldn't have had the opportunity to know other people, from other places in Bolivia, and I wouldn't have been able to have the opportunity to find work. I'm also grateful for having had the practical experience of working and studying in the rural area."

Aldo Estevez del Villar owns a consulting company and has been studying for a master's degree in conflict resolution and taking English classes.  He writes: "The UAC-CP is a home for many youth from the rural area who choose a major to study with the idea of using their education to help benefit the development of the communities from which they come from."
Today, as UAC-CP Agronomy students celebrate the anniversary of their academic department, may they be inspired by those who came before them and are now working and studying (throughout the world!)--inspired by the same mission and vision for improving the quality of life for people.