Mar 9, 2021

Inside the Program: Becas (Scholarships)

The Becas (Scholarships) Team
The Becas (Scholarships) Team

Just a small part of a network of programs that make a student's journey a successful experience." -Nineth Garcia

One barrier to education for families in Guatemala is the cost associated with going to school. While public school can be “free” through 6th grade, once in 7th grade, parents must pay annual registration fees and monthly fees, among other miscellaneous fees.

As a part of the Common Hope model, the scholarship department (Becas) was developed to administer financial resources, school supplies and uniforms to schools and families, regardless if the student has a sponsor or not. Common Hope pays between 80-100% of of tuition and fees depending upon the family's financial capabilities.

One of many important departments at Common Hope, the Scholarship team is critical in maintaining and building partnerships with every school Common Hope students attend. Nineth Garcia, Gerente Administrativa de Becas (Manager of Scholarship Administration) leads the team to do this important work. The relationships the Scholarship team has with both families and schools are essential to their success and to achieving their dreams of a high school diploma.

Nineth joined Common Hope in 1998 as a receptionist. She not only advanced her career at Common Hope over the years, but she attended university while working. Today, she holds a Master’s Degree in Management and Analysis Reliability. Her skills and 22-year history make this program one of Common Hope's best.

The Scholarships team is four strong including Nidya Gonzalez, a Common Hope graduate and staff member for 15 years, Luis Pichilla, a ten-year veteran, and Victor Martinez, new to the team but not Common Hope––he has been with the foundation for 14 years. All in, that makes for a combined 61 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE helping students and families navigate the school system.

This team works closely with 110 different schools to make sure that fees/tuition, uniforms, school supplies, books, and transportation needs are met. Nineth will tell you that their work is just one piece in the puzzle. She says scholarships are "just a small part of a network of programs that make a student’s journey a successful experience."

When asked, Nineth will quickly share with pride that there are many stories that inspire her every day.  Recently she told a story about Miguelito, a Common Hope student that wanted to become a teacher but suffered from a vision impairment. His mom had doubts about helping him pursue his dream because she thought it would be too hard for him. Nineth was able to work with the school and Miguelito's mother to find a solution to the challenge. Miguelito started taking his tests verbally. And, guess what? Miguelito graduated! And he now teaches at a school for the blind. Nineth still remembers the day she saw him walk on the Pathway of Dreams to receive his teaching degree. These stories of inspiration are her motivation for continuing to work hard for Common Hope students.

“What motivates me is being able to support the people of Guatemala. It isn't always easy, but the love and commitment of the students and the team is what keeps me going,” Nineth said.

Nineth is also excited to offer additional help to a special group of 35 students in 2021. This year, in response to increased financial insecurity for students not in the Common Hope program, the team is ready to help.

After learning from teachers in partner schools that some students who had only one year left of school were planning to drop out because they could not afford it, an idea took shape. Because of Nineth's strong relationships with schools and quick thinking, Common Hope is stepping in. This year, Common Hope is helping 35 students by providing scholarship-only support for one year––their senior year––so that after years of hard work they don't miss out on getting their diploma. "This is a great way for Common Hope to help in the face of a pandemic," Shari Blindt, Executive Director shared. "We're glad to deepen our partnership with schools and support families in local communities to make a better Guatemala."

The Scholarship Department's work is more than just a piece of the puzzle––it could be said it is the four corners––and thankfully, Nineth and team and their 61 years of experience have created the foundation for great things.

Nineth, Manager of Scholarship Administration
Nineth, Manager of Scholarship Administration
Oct 26, 2020

Chispudos "sparks" interest to learn from home

Angel the Chispudos Noticias News Anchor
Angel the Chispudos Noticias News Anchor

“Adaptability to change is itself a hallmark of successful education.” Peter Hilton, Renowned Mathematician & Code Breaker

Just like taking Vitamin C boosts your immune system, keeping up with your multiplication tables and reading boosts your educational health and well-being. In Guatemala the private and public schools have been closed since mid-March. As the COVID-19 crisis continues to affect the country, there is still no clear directive on when they will open.

Education is the heart of Common Hope and has been for nearly 35 years. So, while Guatemala’s public education system works to pivot fast, Common Hope is working to sustain educational health among students. The Common Hope Team stepped in and created a SPARK!

Beginning in March, the education staff started thinking about how they could help learning from home. As they started to develop a strategy to help students keep engaged in learning, there was much to consider—What was the best way to reach them? What tools were available in their homes? What would keep students engaged and busy; develop their critical thinking skills, and continue building foundational skills in math and reading? The answer they created? Chispudos aka “Sparks” in English!

Chispudos is exciting and engaging! This new program is a series of regular videos delivered via Facebook to connect over 1,000 Common Hope students to learning. Preschool through sixth graders have access to new videos every day and the content ranges from academic to artistic to health and hygiene to emotion management and vary by age range.

Students and parents are encouraged to participate in the learning and send videos or pictures with the content. At the end of every week, Chispudos publishes a Newscast and gives a special shout out to the top 10 families that participated that week. 750 members are taking part!

Perhaps the silver-lining to the COVID-19 pandemic is being witness to individuals, families, and entire communities quickly adapting and innovating to the new normal. Common Hope is no exception.

*Access to Chispudos is private and exclusive to Common Hope families with primary school students

Some of the Chispudos video topics
Some of the Chispudos video topics


Jun 30, 2020

White flags take the streets in Guatemala.

Decreased income has affected the ability of families to purchase what they need. Food insecurity is among the top concerns for families during this crisis and leaves them vulnerable. Common Hope wants to provide food resources to families for as long as needed to aid in the effort to prevent even great food instability and hunger.

Hunger. Stomach rumbling. No work. No income. Restrictions on travel. These mean there is not enough food on the table for everyone. Families are making difficult choices about who will be able to eat and who will go without. This is the current reality in households across Guatemala. COVID-19 restrictions in Guatemala have inevitably caused an increase in acute malnutrition, and food insecurity has risen as one of the top concerns for families during the pandemic especially amongst already vulnerable populations.

The White Flag. There is a reason that hunger is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer.” Ask yourself, if you and your family were experiencing hunger, what would you do? Would you have the courage to tell your neighbor or friend you were struggling? Would you ask for assistance? White flags signaling hunger began to appear on the streets and in communities of Guatemala in early April and have since become common site across the country. They hang in windows or on roofs, have been painted on the sides of homes, and are held in the hands of families afraid that they will go to sleep hungry. These white flags ask, “please, can you help?”

Community. There is a strong sense of community in Guatemala––of neighbors watching out for each other and supporting one another in times of need. Common Hope social workers have seen this firsthand in the communities where we work. Families who have hung white flags have experienced the kindness and selflessness of neighbors who, though they have little to spare, answer the call for help by giving what they can spare.

Hope. There are Common Hope families who have hung white flags. Until those white flags are gone for good, our staff will continue to work tirelessly to eliminate hunger and provide families with the food they need.

But we can’t do this without you. You provide the critical funding Common Hope needs to pull down every white flag amongst the families we serve. Watch the video below to learn what has been done so far to address food insecurity and what comes next in the fight against hunger.

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