Give the Gift of Education to Children in Poverty

by The Community Action Alliance
Give the Gift of Education to Children in Poverty
Give the Gift of Education to Children in Poverty
Give the Gift of Education to Children in Poverty
Give the Gift of Education to Children in Poverty
Give the Gift of Education to Children in Poverty
Give the Gift of Education to Children in Poverty
Give the Gift of Education to Children in Poverty
Give the Gift of Education to Children in Poverty
Mariela--full of determination and hope
Mariela--full of determination and hope
In this holiday season, we give thanks and are pleased to highlight the challenges and successes of one of our new scholarship students, a determined young woman, who we will call "Mariela". We give thanks to the drive and determination that this young woman demonstrates to her academics - and it is our good fortune to be able to meet her and help support her education. "Mariela" is 14 years old and has just completed her 7th grade courses at a Colegio (high school) in San Ramon, Costa Rica. The transition from elementary school into 7th grade in high school has been challenging for her, as it is for most students when moving into a larger student population where distractions are everywhere, courses are more rigorous, and the expectations are high. However, "Mariela" entered the CAA scholarship program in 2017 based on a nomination from the high school that she needed assistance. " Mariela" has been especially challenged because she is managing the transition to high school while dealing with two serious medial conditions: a heart defect that required surgery a few years ago, and a chronic immune system condition, systematic Lupus (erythematosus). Her symptoms of fatigue, fever, weight loss, arthritis, and skin lesions were diagnosed as Lupus in 2010, and "Mariela" struggled to maintain her focus on her studies while enduring the many symptoms of the condition. With the support of her mother, a single parent, "Mariela" has persevered to achieve an 84.3 grade point average for the 2017 school year, only 1.7 points lower than her 6th grade average. "Mariela's" academic grades, while not as high as she would like, are remarkable. When diagnosed with Lupus, her doctors advised her to withdraw from regular classes in school because of the care and absences that would be required to manage her disease. Despite the doctor's recommendations, "Mariela" has chosen to stay in regular classes rather than move into an alternate curriculum track. And, despite the challenges of her condition, "Mariela" is maintaining good grades, and is looking forward to the Christmas holidays, and the 2018 school year. "Mariela" has set her future career goals high - she hopes to be able to earn the grades to allow her to enter university and a Doctora of Forensic Medicine. This student needs our help to continue with her studies and fulfill her dreams. "Mariela"s experience is but one example of the power of education to change lives, to provide direction when otherwise challenged, and to channel the motivation of this very determined young women to dream forward to a more secure future. The support of our donors makes it possible for us to assist this delightful and focused young student, and 23 others who hope to follow the path of education to lead them out of poverty. Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Our social worker university intern has provided an update regarding the young 6th grade elementary CAA scholarship program student, a student that I will call "Oscar", that we reported on 90 days ago. "Oscar" is a very bright young student who has some real academic potential if he can just get a bit of help from his less than supportive mother, and from the community.

As you may recall from that last report, "Oscar's" father had been killed years ago in a drug shootout, and "Oscar's" mother had relocated to San Ramon to try to escape her past and find a better life for her 5 children.  After struggling for many years, "Oscar's" mother had decided she needed to try to relocate the family to Nicaragua to escape some very persistent and dangerous drug traffickers in the barrio. So, 90 days ago, our CAA Education Committee members were reluctantly having to say goodbye to "Oscar" as he prepared to leave Costa Rica and the CAA scholarship program.

It now appears that "Oscar's" family is not going to leave for Nicaragua, and "Oscar" may be able to continue his schooling here.  However, the home environment for Oscar and his 3 younger brothers and sister, is still very fragil, with the influence of drugs and drug dealers all through the neighborhood. "Oscar's" mother is pulled every day to rejoin her former life distributing drugs, and dangerous men are always around the house.

But, "Oscar" and his siblings now have some allies -- two social workers and a school psychologist, who are hopeful that their continued intervention with "Oscar" and his mother will finally get the family rehabilitated and in a better position.  In fact, they have alerted the child welfare agency, PANI, of the circumstances of these children, and PANI is pushing hard for the mother and the children to leave the immediate neighborhood to escape this environment of drug trafficking. "Oscar" and his mother are both participating in counseling now, and the social workers are hopeful that "Oscar's" mother will finally eliminate her destructive behaviors, and start focusing on the needs of her children.  "Oscar's" mother knows that she is very close to losing custody of her children if she does not quickly make a dramatic change of course. 

And, the social workers and our CAA program interns are working to find "Oscar" a secondary school location away from his barrio that will allow him to escape the pervasive culture of drugs and violence that pulls in so many victims of his age.  Thanks to the dedication of these professionals, "Oscar" may get to enroll in 7th grade, in a San Ramon area secondary school in another location, in January of 2018,  Hopefully, this will give him a good start on his high school education.

Unfortunately, "Oscar's" story is repeated over and over,  throughout the world --but, because of some timely intervention, perhaps "Oscar" will beat the odds and get to complete his high school education, and go on to be able to provide hope for some economic security for his family.  With education, there can be hope, and a solid education can provide the means to secure a better future!  

Let's all keep working for "Oscar" and give him the strength to pursue his educational goals and be a role model for the rest of his family.  

By sharing this update with our GlobalGiving supporters, we hope to let you know that your financial assistance is making a difference, one "Oscar" at a time.  Thanks you for your generous support for "Oscar" and his fellow CAA scholarship program participants.  Their education depends on your continuing support. 



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"Oscar" at First Term 2017 Scholarship Awards
"Oscar" at First Term 2017 Scholarship Awards

I am happy to report that six more of CAA's young scholarship students graduated from elementary school at the end of 2017 and were eligible to enroll into high school in 2017. In our last report, we highlighted the academic success of 4 young women who earned straight A's for the 2016 school year. But for every success story, we understand that there will be some disappointments and this report reflects that reality.     

This report highlights the plight of one very bright December, 2016 elementary school graduate, a young man that I will call "Oscar". As the eldest of four children, Oscar is at a very difficult crossroad right now. Oscar and his siblings lost their father to a drug gang killing a few years back, and Oscar's mother served prison time for dealing drugs only to be released on a witness protection arrangement with relocation to San Ramon. Oscar has been in the CAA scholarship program for 2 years, and despite his excellent elementary school grades, he must leave the program.

Under Costa Rican law, educational attendance is no longer required after completion of elementary school. So, between 6th and 7th grades, many young students are pushed to go to the fields to work to help the family. And, the spector of drug dealing in their barrios is a real barrier to education for many of these students - especially for 12-13 year old young men who are quickly recruited by drug dealers knowing that these young "runners" are treated lightly if caught.

Oscar was awarded scholarship vouchers for first term 2017, but he was not able to use them. Oscar was not able to get into high school first term because Oscar's mother has refused to sign his 2017 high school registration papers despite numerous attempts by CAA and other social agencies to get this done. Was the mother just being irresponsible, or is there some other reason this very capable student is being kept out of school? We recently learned that because of persistent association with and threats from drug dealers, Oscar's mother is moving the family to Nicaragua to find a home away from a particularly vengeful gang.  Whether Oscar can return to school after his relocation is an open question; and this development represents a disappointment for those that have supported Oscar for the past two years.  

Although CAA's supporters through GlobalGiving have helped Oscar get through elementary school; now, we can only stand in solidarity with him and hope that he finds a path to continue his education. Even more importantly, we hope his family finds safety in a new location.

Although the futures of some of these children are filled with uncertainty, your donations are an intrical part of these children's successes.  And, despite some disappointments, we continue to support education for these children in poverty.  Now, we must hand over the reins to a higher power to continue to support and watch over Oscar and his family. Buenas suerte, Oscar. 


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CAA Academic Excellence Award for 2016(1)
CAA Academic Excellence Award for 2016(1)

In late January, CAA presented our scholarship students with their first term scholarship vouchers, and cheered them on for another successful year in class. Having graduated our first scholarship student from high school last December, we have re-focused on the remaining students ranging from 4th through 10th grades.

This year, we identified 4 students for academic excellence awards – all young women. These four young ladies, two are in the 6th grade, one in the 7th,grade, and one in the 8th grade, achieved straight A report card scores for 2016 demonstrating their focus on education.  Although these young women are challenged by the lack of family financial resources, they are truly committed to preparing themselves for the opportunity for a better future through educational success. Given that most of these student’s parents did not even finish 6th grade, achieving straight A report cards is even more significant!

Our CAA team hopes that these special academic recognitions will encourage some of the other students to try just a bit harder in 2017 to join this elite group. One young man in elementary school came up after the special awards and exclaimed that he too had good grades - he made 2-B’s and the rest A’s, and hoped that was sufficient to be able to join the four young ladies. We counseled him that perhaps he could focus a little extra attention to those 2 subjects this year, and indeed, he might be able to become the first young man to be recognized for straight A’s in next year’s awards! 

And, we have counseling sessions scheduled in April with the parents, students, and their teachers to make sure that those that have struggled with subjects last year, are regaining their focus on studies in 2017.

Our team also encouraged the high school students to make a commitment to volunteerism - to make time to help others this year. To encourage this volunteerism, we announced that next year, we will present a special Volunteer Recognition Award.  It is important for these young students, who are being assisted by the generosity and concern of others, to recognize that they too can give back to others less fortunate or in need. 

In this first school term, CAA presented scholarship vouchers totaling almost $3500 -- this critical educational assistance would not have been possible without your support.

We are proud of all of our scholarship students and are working hard to give them the help they need to succeed. We want to recognize and thank all of our supporting Global Giving donors and our CAA volunteers in Costa Rica for helping to achieve this success.  

CAA Academic Excellence Award for 2016(2)
CAA Academic Excellence Award for 2016(2)
CAA Academic Excellence Award for 2016(3)
CAA Academic Excellence Award for 2016(3)
CAA Academic Excellence Award for 2016(4)
CAA Academic Excellence Award for 2016(4)
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CAA Student Workshop - Values and Volunteerism
CAA Student Workshop - Values and Volunteerism

Nothing excited our 23 scholarship students more in early December than finishing the term and focusing on Christmas holidays with a 2 month break from school. For a number of these students, Chirstmas vacation included a daily ritutual of helping the family pick coffee in the mountians all around San Ramon, not exactly a vacation. But, first we thought it important that students and their families reflect on the academic achievements and challenges of the past year, and to identify the necessary steps to exceed those academic levels in the coming year.  To accomplish this, we organized a half-day counseling and workshop for December 10th aimed to keep these students focused on continued growth in 2017.

With the help of our 5 volunteer university social workers, and under the direction of our licensed volunteer social worker, JF, we sat down with the mothers or fathers of the scholarship students to review last year's grades hoping to identify academic, attendance, conduct, or special need issues that we could help improve.  While the parent interviews were being conducted, University of Costa Rica 3rd-4th year social worker students engaged the scholarship students in a workshop emphasizing the importance of Positive Values and Giving Back through Volunteerism.

For some parents, this discussion was the first focused review and discussion of their child's academic record, and it allowed for a candid discussion with trained social workers about their child's progress. In some cases, the parent had not even reviewed the grades much less discussed them with the child! These interviews identified 3 students that will require closer monitoring and family intervention during the next school term - to change behaviors that are impacting academic progress.  And, we identified 2 others with vision problems that need special eyeglasses.

In the case of one very athletic high school student whose grades had fallen over the second term of 2016, the interview identified that the student had been misinformed by other students that he would be able to get a university scholarship based solely on his athletic strengths, and it didn't really matter about his mediocre academic record.  After a prolonged discussion with JF, a social worker and a former university admissions and financial assistance advisor, the student and his mother came to understand that without a strong academic record, even a good athlete would not hope to get into Costa Rica's public universities, much less get government financial assistance.   Hopefully, this discussion, and some first term scheduled follow-up counseling sessions in March and April, will enable this student to refocus on both his academics and his athletics and get back on course in 2017. 

With the help of some capable volunteers, the CAA Education Committee applauded the academic success of the vast majority of our students, and identified 3 students that will require closer monitoring of progress to get back on course.

It really does take a village to successfully raise and educate a child - and without these dedicated social worker volunteers and your financial help through Global Giving, some of these students would slip through the cracks and drop out of school.  We send our special thanks to all of you who continue to be members of our extended village! 



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Organization Information

The Community Action Alliance

Location: San Ramon, Alajuela - Costa Rica
Project Leader:
Scott and Linda McAnally
San Ramon, Alajuela Costa Rica
$18,429 raised of $30,000 goal
254 donations
$11,571 to go
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