| Mar 27, 2017
Coordinator Profile: Arcadio
Arcadio believes education is the key to developing social and communal strength. He sees education as one of the most important pillars of the human experience: the way by which communities are empowered, and people realize their ability to contribute to positive change. Arcadio knows he can deeply affect his community through education, helping to develop that which is missing, and contributing to a wave of empowerment. He knows the reality of many living in rural areas, sharing in the collective struggle of those who have dreams to receive an education without the means to accomplish them. But Arcadio also knows dreams can become a reality- his story a testament to what is possible when you believe in yourself and have a positive mentality, refusing to yield to the barriers in your way.
One of nine children, Arcadio’s family has always struggled economically. Arcadio had to leave school after the 3rd grade to help contribute to the family’s income, working with his father to sell vegetables beginning at age ten. He did so until he was sixteen years old, when he began working in agriculture. Arcadio recalls these childhood years of work with neither resentment nor sadness- doing what needed to be done to support his family, Arcadio assumed he’d never be able to prioritize his education. At age eighteen, he joined a youth group in the local church, actively participating and sharing his opinions. He was soon asked to coordinate the group, studying theology with other members of the municipality. When a friend involved with youth development invited Arcadio to join a training on human rights, civic participation and sociopolitical participation, Arcadio was quick to accept. At one point during the training, he was asked what his education level was, and felt uneasy about disclosing the truth to a group comprised of professionals, teachers, and university students who had all gone beyond the 3rd grade, unlike himself. A colleague in the same situation proposed that they study together, and Arcadio soon began taking classes for adults at an education center through La Sagrada Familia de Chiantla. His schedule was difficult: Arcadio continued to work Monday through Friday from 4:30 in the morning to 7:30 at night, listening to lessons over the radio at 8:30 each night and going to the center on weekends to take classes. In spite of being ridiculed and told he was too old by many, Arcadio persevered for one and a half years, and completed 6th grade at age 21.
Though he hadn’t initially planned to go beyond 6th grade, Arcadio’s connections in the education center motivated him to continue with el basico (middle school equivalent). For five years, Arcadio continued to work in agriculture on weekdays, studying on nights and weekends. He barely had enough money for classes and transportation, and had no money left over for food when he went to the center on weekends, waiting until he returned home to eat. But thanks to his father supporting him with what little he could, Arcadio finished 3rd basico at age 26. He then returned to working in agriculture, assuming his studies were completed. However, by the end of the year’s harvest, Arcadio had made enough money to begin studying again the following year. He entered school in the field of primary education, attending classes from 7:30 to 12:30 on weekdays, supported by his father and brothers. In October, 2013, at age 31, Arcadio graduated as a primary school teacher. Upon graduating, the head of the program asked if anyone was interested in going to university. Arcadio said yes, as it was a dream of his, but he figured he’d never be able to attend due to finances. When his evaluation was good enough to enroll at the University of San Carlos, Arcadio wasn’t very excited, because he knew he couldn’t afford to attend.
In the meantime, Arcadio was coordinating a theater group that performed for human rights initiatives, informing the public about sexual health and HIV. Performing nationally, Arcadio made connections with activists in other municipalities, and was recruited to work with a Women's’ Empowerment project in Chiantla and Aguacatán, called Mujeres Empoderadas. Arcadio initially worked with 5 groups of 20 women each, and by the end of his three years with Mujeres Empoderadas, was a trainer of 15 groups: working with 300 women total and discussing human rights, women's’ rights, and teaching entrepreneurial activities such as cosmetics and candle making. When the project ended in September, 2016, Arcadio had saved enough money to begin attended university. He briefly returned to agricultural work to help his brothers, and was connected with Aula Magica in January of 2017, receiving the opportunity to become a teacher and coordinator.
Arcadio attends university classes and does work-study in the mornings, and teaches in the afternoons. He hopes to have a degree in teaching secondary school by next year, and dreams of studying an additional two years to receive a license in education. He is closer than he ever thought he would be, and seeks to contribute to education in Guatemala to help create the change he knows his country is capable of. For all of his work in empowerment, Arcadio sees the importance of self-support, and realizing one's’ own capabilities. He hopes to support his peers in this way as a coordinator, working as a team to help prepare kids for success. Arcadio says the most important impact he can have on his students is to help them discover their different abilities: because we all have something to discover through education, we just need the opportunity.