As we start the first stretch of the academic year, it seems important to me to review what we achieved, what was missed and what we could have done differently during 2020. It certainly was not an easy time, but as I look back, what prevails in me is a feeling of joy because in the ever-changing scenario of the pandemic, and all things considered, we did good.
Very early on we committed ourselves to one objective, and one only: that our students would thrive, no matter the circumstances. To compensate for all the inconveniences of virtual education, we recruited volunteers to teach support classes, turned workshops into virtual training, surveyed our students regularly to assess their well-being, organized group meetings to reaffirm a sense of trust and togetherness, and offered all sorts of complementary courses to make the most of their free time. In short, we constantly innovated, though I honestly believe that the key wasn't so much creativity at finding solutions for problems no one had foreseen, but rather how quickly we reacted and implemented changes.
News from our Scholarship Program
We are very proud of last year's desertion rate, which would have been low even in normal times: despite the context, only 4 students out of a total of 140 dropped out of their career project. That´s a true achievement, especially because virtual learning posed a serious problem for about 13% of the students. In some neighborhoods, connectivity was unavailable or very bad and there were families where younger adults had to find ways to compensate for the lost income of their parents. Also, certain courses or subjects were incompatible with virtual learning: gastronomy, nursing practice, or many subjects in the physical education teaching program. At different times of the year, a total of 19 students requested their scholarships to be placed on hold until conditions improved, and we are happy that, as of today, more than half of them have already resumed their studies.
We are proud and excited that 66% of our scholarship holders made excellent academic progress and automatically renewed their scholarship in December, while the remaining did so during the summer. 13 students completed 100% of their program, an outstanding accomplishment in times of virtual, solitary learning.
Although we decided we were not prepared to carry out a completely virtual selection process of applicants for 2021, we did accept the request for scholarship from 4 graduates who wanted to crown their technical formation with a bachelor's degree. A total of 102 students have started this academic year.
Above and beyond the pandemic, we undertook an exhaustive review of our internal procedures and criteria to minimize the risk of drop out and improve management general efficiency. After months of hard work, lengthy interviews, and countless meetings, we were able to design a Mentoring Program that capitalized on more than 10 years of accumulated experience, and we also reviewed our applicant selection process.
The pandemic forced us to explore new meeting alternatives and for the first time, our students living in La Pampa Province shared activities with those from AMBA (Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area). Conversations during Quarantine, a cycle of 4 meetings was an opportunity for all of us, staff and students, to get to know each other better and to feel part of a larger team, united by common values, goals, shared hopes, and similar aspirations. At a time in which compulsory confinement forced us into seclusion, the enormous energy and joy these meetings sparked were extraordinary. Because they were so successful, these Conversations will continue in 2021, whether we are confined or not.
To replace the traditional workshops typically held in person, we signed agreements with other institutions to be able to offer our students free access to an array of different training platforms. Thanks to the agreement with AMIA's (Argentinian Israeli Mutual Association) Employment Service they were granted access to a fully stocked library of complementary skills courses and a very dynamic schedule of seminars. We partnered with BUSENCU, a new platform specifically designed to match companies with young professionals from disadvantaged backgrounds, to improve employment opportunities.
We share with our donors the same commitment to equity and social inclusion through knowledge. We seek to foster talent, and we understand that work is not only a source of income but also what gives the individual a sense of belonging and purpose. We are all intertwined: the students have their life project, our know-how helps them achieve it, but ultimately it is our donors who make it happen.
The companies and corporations that through the years have shared our commitment to a better society were key to getting us through these trying times. Without their unwavering support, we would not have been able to make it. Thank you!
We are honored that in 2020 PAE (Pan American Energy), Bodegas Esmeralda from Catena Zapata Group, and Compass Group chose us to fulfill their commitment to a more equitable and egalitarian society. This is a promising first step in a partnership we hope will grow and deepen.
In 2020 we welcomed 113 individual donors: 24% live in Argentina, the rest abroad. In times as uncertain as this one we are living in, this is a unique privilege for which we are extremely grateful. But our ambition, I must confess, is endless. In 2021 we look forward to welcoming more individuals and companies to enable more young people to realize their potential through higher education, thus forging the future they deserve.
Our annual Report is in Spanish and you can read here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ImFwEzxSxE6cZxNPrYlyQe-p-pHxulrv/view?usp=sharing
As we are hit by a second wave of Covid, much more severe and intense than the first one, I am calm and confident: whatever we´ll have to face in the months ahead, we are ready. 2020 was the training we needed to go through this year.
I would like to end with a quote from Winston Churchill: "Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it". Thank you for being part of our team! Nothing would be possible without you.