This Christmas, as we give thanks for our families and our lives, we encourage you to remember those less-fortunate. We hope you’ll remember people like Sandra as you enjoy the holidays with your loved ones.
Sandra won an award for attendance and punctuality at Scheel Center this year. The remarkable thing about this young woman isn’t that she was never absent or late from school this year…it’s that she wakes up at 3 AM every day to make it to class on time.
Sandra lives in a very remote area. The closest bus stop is an hour’s walk from her family’s small farm. Then, she takes two transfers to get to school. After classes, Sandra doesn’t linger around the courtyard to gossip with her friends. Instead, she starts the long journey home so she can be there before nightfall.
This girl has big dreams for her future. She is an artist at heart and loves to sing and play guitar. It is rare to find this kind of dedication in anyone, much less in a teenage girl who is already the most well-educated member of her family.
This Christmas, we hope that you’ll take a moment to reflect upon your good fortune and the struggles of those who were born into a different life. We hope you’ll remember Sandra and her determination to have a better life as you celebrate with your loved ones. And we hope that you’ll be generous in this season of giving with a donation that encourages Sandra and the other 150 Scheel students that they are never alone on their long journey.
It is fair to say that most Scheel Center students don’t know much about computers. They don’t have access to one at home. They maybe visit a near-by internet café once or twice a month when they’ve set aside enough spare change. Starting the 2012 school year in January will change that. Thanks to a generous donation made this summer, Scheel Center has installed a computer lab full of brand new laptop and desktop computers. Although students already receive some computer and typing courses through an outside service, this will be the first time that Scheel students have computer access every day. We’re excited to show them how to email, how to do online research, and how to use social networks safely. Mostly, we’re excited to give them the opportunity to learn more about the world in a way that they’ve never connected before. Thanks to your support for making this mind-expanding experience possible.
At the end of October, Scheel Center students, staff and volunteers gathered to celebrate our second graduating class. Six students completed their basico education (9th grade equivalent in the US education system). This is a huge accomplishment for any child in Guatemala, but especially for students who come from such disadvantaged backgrounds.
As each young man crossed the room to receive his diploma, everyone applauded loudly. They say that it takes a village to raise a child. We realize the truth of this statement during every graduation ceremony.
As each young man crossed the room to receive his diploma, we were all proud. Every teacher had contributed some way to his education. Every volunteer had watched him prepare for this moment. Every parent knew the odds against which he had fought to reach this milestone.
Part of our philosophy is to treat each student as our own child, to give them love and teach them rules as though they were our own. We hope that you share that philosophy and feel the same pride that we do. We hope that you choose to continue supporting future Scheel graduates with your financial contributions.
Scheel students have opportunities to learn about things that they normally would never be exposed to. By choosing to expand their horizons with these extracurricular courses, students gain critical thinking skills, build self-confidence and realize that education doesn’t just happen during the school day.
One example is our Integral Philosophy Program, taught by volunteers Mick and Deb. The philosophy course teaches young people how to think, not what to think. Students also learn mediation skills, to help them confront the harsh realities of life in a violent, extremely poor neighborhood.
Below are comments from the students’ final exams (translated from Spanish), in which 11 of the 12 students indicated that they wanted to keep taking the course in the evenings after they graduated.
“If one does not reason well, one cannot expand one’s way of living. If one does not think, one cannot act with intelligence. I feel sad when I wake up and come back to the everyday hard state. What is sadness? Why do we lose our drive when we are sad? I never dreamed big before.” “This course helps me to think in a different way than I, sadly, knew. It is like seeing a different world from different eyes.”
“When I arrive home, even though I don’t understand the class, I think about ideas that maybe can help me to go beyond all that I have thought before. I think about those who lived before Jesus, yet I come back to close myself in the same circle again. Why?” “Meditation helps me get out of things that inhabit my mind. In mediation, I realize that there are more beliefs than we know and more to consider that never even crossed our minds. Meditation releases all the bad vibrations of the body and helps me think clearly.” “Meditation is as if I am witnessing everything that is going on around me. Meditation is like wandering in nothingness, like your soul wasn’t here, like being in flight, like I have never been discovered, like I have found inner peace. All my soul was at peace and I keep doing it to wander in my mind and to go without direction in my own world.”
Offering free, accelerated elementary and middle school education and technical training for students up to 26 years of age, the Scheel Center, helps drop-outs go Back to School and strive for success, despite their difficult backgrounds. In our last update we spoke about expanding horizons, this time we step into action!
For young people with energy and creative spirit, dance offers a great outlet that teaches confidence, discipline, teamwork, and encourages expression.
Scheel Center staff and volunteers work hard to promote positive expression, so students can learn to set and reach for challenging goals, and learn to both excel and to stumble and recover. Of course music is a vital and near universal form of both expression and entertainment for youth.
These photos follow the rise of Scheel youth in a form of gymnastic dance known as 'streamer dancing', from their earliest steps in 2009. Scheel youth were Jocotenango champions for the first time in 2009, competing with 23 Jocotenango teams beating all schools for a first place trophy. In 2010, they competed against 16 schools and won first place allowing them to compete in national competitions against 22 depatamentos from all over Guatemala, finishing 4th. Now, Scheel youth have earned 3 first place finishes at the national level.
More import, we are very proud of these guys and gals who compete with love, discipline, responsibility and pride in being students at the Scheel center. We hope you agree that this helps them to enjoy their education and be motivated to continue their studies and not be bound by roots of poverty or family problems.
While another school year will soon end, our programing will continue during the annual break with a special Literacy building program and extra catch-up classes for students.
Our staff, volunteers and students sincerely appreciate your interest and generous support in our educational and skills training programs!
With your continued support we are able to offer these types of positive opportunites for our students and to offer a quality program that sees youth step confidently into brighter futures!
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La Antigua Guatemala,