In a room full of inspired neighbors and businessmen, Esperanza’s second class celebrated their graduation this past Friday with a beautiful ceremony held at the local American Trade Hotel.
The 10 young graduates in this particular class have turned a lot of heads for several reasons…
First, for their fortitude.
The past six weeks were peppered with a number of setbacks and roadblocks, but the graduates showed that they were willing to overcome pretty much any odds including a temporary pause to the program due to safety concerns.
This "ganas" to succeed is something that is new (and reassuring) to the technical team.
Another reason that this particular class was so inspiring was their entrepreneurial drive.
Never before had the technical team seen young men with such desire to create their own businesses.This had an interesting way of enticing local entrepreneurs to support the program as well as scoring several international press opportunities.
The graduation ended with a business plan presented by the group's Leaders to coordinate high-end dinners in the ghetto (a model designed to bring attention to the neighborhood via partnerships with successful local restauranteurs).
Several of Panama City’s top food and beverage executives were in attendance have already expressed serious interest in participation.
The graduation also marked another milestone as the young men officially renounced their previous gang title (Ciudad de Dios) in favor of a new and inspiring name, “Fortaleza” which can be interpreted as “Strength” (as in, “one needs Fortaleza to succeed here”) as well as “Fortress” (as it relates to the historic stone wall remnants that once defended Casco Viejo from pirates.)
This was an organic and monumental decision by the graduates, not necessarily to forget where they came from, but rather to demonstrate where they are going.
All in all, Esperanza San Felipe as a program made great strides in this, our second phase of reintegration.
Eyeing several large grants as well as a constant flow of recurring $25/monthly donations from inspired supporters, financial backing seems to be one of the few yet tangible cruxes to our success.
While there are still a lot of challenges and we're maybe only half way towards our goal of turning the former Ciudad de Dios territory into a "Zona de Paz" and integrating these guys fully into the community, our first report represents a spectacular start.
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