My Voice is Power: Shaping Honduran Youth Leaders

by Organization for Youth Empowerment
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Empowered young woman Ivelis in OYE
Empowered young woman Ivelis in OYE's radio booth

Dear Loyal Friends,

Can you imagine your life without education? Working long hours at a low-skilled, low-wage job just to survive-that is, if you can even find one. Living a life of stifled dreams and feeling powerless to change your circumstances.

Growing up in Honduras, it isn't too hard to imagine. This is the bleak reality awaiting the over 50% of Honduran youth who never finish high school. And to think that for $50 a month, you can ensure that one promising high school student not only makes it to their high school graduation, but is equipped to make a successful transition to college - a transition too few young people in Honduras have the opportunity to make. Only 14% of Honduran high school graduates enter college, in comparison to 90% of OYE's youth scholars.

Ivelis is one of the few, but it has been a bumpy road. Money was always tight in Ivelis' family, but the situation only got worse when her parents separated. She was in 9th grade at the time and all of a sudden her education was no longer a priority. Despite economic difficulties and family instability, Ivelis persisted and supported by an OYE scholarship, she graduated from high school at the top of her class in 2012. But beyond encouraging academic success, OYE became a second home and the place where she has found her voice.

In her words: "OYE has helped me grow. I have become more responsible and learned how to face life's challenges... I've found a place where I belong."

Now 21, Ivelis is attending college and holds a leadership role in CREA, an OYE initiative that has provided comprehensive sex education, with a focus on gender and rights, to over 750 teens in less than two years. But beyond energizing workshops and providing critical information on sexual and reproductive health, Ivelis has become a trusted confidant for many teen girls, listening to their troubles and answering tough questions they do not feel comfortable asking other adults in their lives. Today she is a leader and we could not be more proud of the empowered, dynamic, and reslilient young woman she has become.

While various international foundations provide crucial funding to cover much of our direct program costs, it is your contributions that prepare our young leaders with the confidence and skills to lead these invaluable programs that reach thousands of disadvantaged teens each year.

Today I write to thank you for your past contributions and ask for your continued support of our work to empower promising youth like Ivelis. Without valuable contributions like yours, at-risk youth will continue to go without an education, their only means to build a better and brighter future in Honduras.

On behalf of all of us at OYE, and most especially our youth, thank you for your support and belief in our work. We do not take you for granted.

Sincerely,

Rocío Mendoza
Executive Director

Ivelis leading sex ed workshop in local school
Ivelis leading sex ed workshop in local school
Our director w/ youth at 11th Anniversary Expo
Our director w/ youth at 11th Anniversary Expo
Ivelis w/ OYE Comunica radio crew
Ivelis w/ OYE Comunica radio crew

Links:

Ashly (center) at local TV station with CREA
Ashly (center) at local TV station with CREA

Dear Friends,

At the end of last year, we set a goal to extend 100 scholarships to disadvantaged young women and men for the 2016 academic year. And guess what? We did it! Thanks to the generous support of our donors (you!), our group of promising youth scholars grew from 75 to 100+ in just one year! This January 20th, we welcomed 44 new scholars to the OYE family, 60% being adolescent girls and young women.

One such girl is Ashly. First coming into contact with OYE through our sexual and reproductive health project, CREA, Ashly demonstrated leadership potential from day one. She stood out among her peers by actively participating in every workshop and protagonizing a media campaign to prevent adolescent pregnancy. Upon receiving the news that she had been selected to receive a scholarship: "It was a beautiful moment when I found out I would be an OYE scholar. I started out as a volunteer because I enjoyed participating in the activities and engaging with my peers. I actually missed the deadline to apply for a scholarship, but I think my eagerness to participate and the relationships I formed with staff caused them to give me a chance. My goal is to not simply be a scholar, but to grow within the organization and finish high school."

Ashly, like many of her peers at OYE, comes from a broken home with limited support and scarce economic resources. She also lives in one of El Progreso's most problematic barrios, known for its deep-rooted problems of violence, poverty and teen pregnancy. In contrast to this desperate landscape, OYE is a place of hope and opportunity; not just for Ashly, but for all of the youth who walk through our doors. (And they are many!) On their behalf, we thank you for your continued support of our work.

In other news, our youth-led programs in the arts, communications and sports have kicked into full gear in 2016. The art program "Arte La Calle" already has two community murals under its belt and has started a series of oil-painting workshops for some of its most advanced artists. Youth in the graphic design program "DiseñOYE" are honing their photography skills and hosting workshops in the community, promoting photography as a powerful means for youth to express themselves and their reality. The once-independent radio, magazine and TV programs have fused into one cohesive communications program, "OYE Comunica," which recently celebrated "Spanish Language Day" (Día del Idioma) with over 500 children and youth at a local elementary/middle school, carrying out a variety of literary activities and games, such as an essay contest, public speaking contest and spelling bee, among others. Most recently, youth from the sports program "Deportes en Acción" organized a soccer tournament with youth leaders from two local elementary/middle schools, where approximately 150 teens, boys and girls, from five local schools came together in a day of friendly competition as a means of preventing violence and promoting sports and healthy lifestyles among youth from at-risk communities.

This work is only possible through the generousity of the individuals, businesses and foundations that believe in the work we are doing each and every day to educate and empower the next generation of young leaders in Honduras. Please consider continuing to support our work by making your contribution today! With your support, we can offer even more girls like Ashly the transformative opportunity to finish high school and pursue higher education.

In appreciation,
Amanda

Youth of Arte La Calle starting community mural
Youth of Arte La Calle starting community mural
"Spanish Language Day" celebration at local school
"Spanish Language Day" celebration at local school
Teen girls at soccer tournament
Teen girls at soccer tournament
2016 OYE Scholars at Induction Ceremony
2016 OYE Scholars at Induction Ceremony
OYE Reps w/ FLOTUS Michelle Obama at White House
OYE Reps w/ FLOTUS Michelle Obama at White House

Dear Friends of OYE:

Warmest greetings in the new year! 2015 was an incredible year for OYE, as we celebrated 10 years of empowering Honduran youth. And as if that wasn't enough to celebrate, we have some really amazing news to share with you!

Exactly two months ago at the White House, OYE received the 2015 International Spotlight Award of the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards. First Lady Michelle Obama presented the award to OYE's representatives who flew to Washington for this incredible event: Executive Director Rocío Mendoza, OYE youth scholars Jefry Amaya and Claudia Pavón, and Development Coordinator Amanda Hall. OYE was the sole international program recognized among a dozen extraordinary national programs, all using art to engage at-risk youth.

What a remarkable recognition for OYE!

This holiday season, 23 young people have reached a milestone that over half of young Hondurans never reach: high school graduation. And equally exciting news: 22 of our graduates will be enrolling in the university next year with the support of our scholarship program.

In a country where over 50% of young people never finish high school and only 14% have access to higher education, 95% of OYE scholars complete high school and 90% of high school graduates continue on to university.

You make this work possible.

Since 2005, your support has provided hundreds of young poeple with the opportunity to finish high school and obtain access to higher education. They emerge as confident, skilled and motivated young adults who will contribute to building a positive future for all Hondurans, starting within their homes, schools and communities.

But OYE's transformative work lies not in the statistics, but in the personal stories of its youth.

Let's go back to Jefry. Raised by a single mother, Jefry is one of seven brothers and sisters. Despite the family's extremely harsh economic situation, his mother always kept Jefry and his siblings in school. In 2011,Jefry applied for and received an OYE scholarship, which eased the burden of his educational expenses. Today, Jefry is a second-year college student and the first person in his family's history to attend university.

In his words: "OYE is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. My family has limited resources and it is because of OYE that I was able to finish high school and continue studying at the university. I always think about what would have happened to me if I had never found OYE. It is most likely that I would have had to drop out of school to help provide for my family, maybe even leave Honduras. What I do know is that being a part of OYE has changed my life."

There are so many stories of resilience and hope like Jefry's; stories of youth staying in Honduras, confronting the turmoil that surrounds them and giving back to their communities.

Because of your generous and loyal support over the years, together with growing support within Honduras, we are pleased to say that our goal for 2016 is to offer 100 high school and university scholarships. (Just a reminder: For $500, you can provide a one-year high school scholarship; and for $650, a one-year university scholarship.)

With your help, we can reach and even surpass this number and ensure that disadvantaged, motivated youth are given the opportunity to discover their potential as leaders and pursue their education and their dreams. Can we continue to count on your support this year?

In appreciation,

Ana Luisa Ahern (Co-Founder)

OYE scholar at high school graduation in December
OYE scholar at high school graduation in December
OYE staff w/ high school grad and his proud mother
OYE staff w/ high school grad and his proud mother
OYE family at End of the Year Celebration
OYE family at End of the Year Celebration

Links:

Dunia, one of OYE
Dunia, one of OYE's first 5 youth scholars in 2005

Dear Friends and Supporters,

When Justin Eldridge Otero, Ana Luisa Ahern and Jessica Mockrin started working with young Honduran students unable to continue their education due to poverty, they had no idea that their efforts would result in an organization that has endured and grown for ten years.

Since 2005, OYE has provided access to education, leadership development and community engagement opportunities to over 500 promising youth in El Progreso and its surrounding communities. No words can express how humbled and grateful we are for your confidence in our mission and the accomplishments of our youth scholars.

This year as we celebrate our 10th Anniversary, we reflect back on the youth whose lives have been and continue to be transformed by OYE.

Dunia was one of OYE’s first five scholarship recipients in 2005. When she was only 12 years old, she lost both of her parents to AIDS. Living out her remaining adolescent years in Copprome, a home for orphaned children in El Progreso, she had little hope of continuing her education upon graduating from high school. Through OYE’s support and working part-time to cover her living expenses, Dunia graduated from university in 2010 with a degree in Industrial Engineering. After a few years of employment elsewhere, she returned to El Progreso and to OYE in 2012 as our Programs Coordinator. Last year, she was selected by the Seattle International Foundation’s Central America and Mexico Youth Fund, as one of five Central American youth leaders, to head a sexual and reproductive health education project carried out by OYE to promote healthy lifestyles and gender equity among at-risk youth populations in El Progreso.

As Programs Coordinator, Dunia oversees OYE´s Participation and Community Engagement Programs, youth-ed programs designed to build stronger communities by providing a safe space for youth to engage with their peers, discover hidden talents, learn new skills, express themselves, cultivate creativity and build self-confidence. These programs, designed and led by select OYE scholars (youth coordinators), serve as OYE’s platform to reach out to and engage thousands of youth throughout the city through the arts, communications and sports.

Among OYE's Participation and Communication Programs is Arte La Calle. Since the beginning, the arts have been a crucial element of OYE's strategy in engaging and empowering youth. Arte La Calle creates a space for youth to develop artistically and express themselves and their reality through the visual, performing and media arts. This year, nearly 100 youth actively participate from week to week, but thousands more youth are impacted by the program’s diverse initiatives.

This year, OYE's programming in the arts and communications, dubbed Mi Voz Es Poder, was nominated for the International Spotlight Award of the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, the United States' highest honor for out-of-school time arts and humanities programs that reach underserved youth. We are incredibly honored by this nomination and humbled by the generous support of our donors that make this program, and all of OYE's work, possible.

During the past year, we have made great strides in acquiring financial support from local businesses and institutions in an effort to achieve greater sustainability for OYE's programs, especially our scholarship program, and reach even more youth next year. While we are proud that increasing numbers of Hondurans are supporting their hometown youth, it isn’t enough. It is because of you that we have made it this far and your support remains indispensable as we move forward.

We’ve come so far in these past ten years and together we can continue our mission to educate and empower young Hondurans for years to come... Are you in?

In appreciation,
Amanda

Arte La Calle
Arte La Calle's Saturday drawing classes at OYE
Photo expo at OYE
Photo expo at OYE's 10th Anniversary Fair in June
Staff and youth celebrating OYE
Staff and youth celebrating OYE's 10th Anniversary

Links:

Alex painting his first canvas at OYE.
Alex painting his first canvas at OYE.

Hello Friends and Supporters,

Did you know that 800,000 youth in Honduras neither study nor work? In Spanish, they are known as the "NiNis" - ni trabajan, ni estudian - and are among the most vulnerable populations of Honduras. Without opportunities to study or work, youth are increasingly vulnerable to violence and exploitation, especially young girls.

If you wonder about OYE's power to transform young lives, look no further than the Rodriguez brothers. For Alex (18) and Rey (19), attending high school was never a guarantee. Each year, it became increasingly difficult to pay for books, supplies and uniforms. Three years ago, the costs of education became too much to bear, forcing the brothers to drop out of high school before completing the 9th grade. They became 2 of the 800,000 “NiNis”: young, poor, neither working nor studying. Like so many of their peers, their lives could have easily taken a different course: joining a gang or making the dangerous journey north. Instead, Alex and Rey walked through OYE's doors for the first time this April and discovered a renewed sense of purpose and belonging. They have since become active participants in OYE’s Arte La Calle art program and have proven themselves to be inspiring youth leaders and valuable contributors to OYE’s diverse community-based actions. At OYE, young people often discover and develop talents they never knew they had. Alex and Rey are counted among 19 of OYE's new scholars of 2015.

You make this work possible.

On January 16th, we kicked off the year with our annual welcoming ceremony, the Entrega de Becas, where we recognized and welcomed all 74 of our scholarship students and their parents. The event gave new scholars and their families the opportunity to learn more about OYE's mission and vision, emphasizing the opportunities OYE provides for youth apart from the scholarship, including leadership development and community engagement opportunities in the arts, communications and sports.

The entirety of OYE’s work is dedicated to breaking cycles of poverty and empowering young people to become agents of change and contribute to the positive transformation of Honduras. In an area where so many have failed, OYE’s mission endures. Honduras’ future rests in the hands of its many youth. We thank you for your support and invite you to continue to support OYE to provide opportunities to Honduran youth who choose to stay and build a brighter future in and for Honduras.

In appreciation,
Amanda

Programs Coordinator addressing aspiring scholars.
Programs Coordinator addressing aspiring scholars.
Aspiring new scholars during selection process.
Aspiring new scholars during selection process.
Group shot from holiday/end-of-year celebration!
Group shot from holiday/end-of-year celebration!

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Organization for Youth Empowerment

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.oyehonduras.org
Project Leader:
Amanda Hall
Development Coordinator
Washington, DC United States
$34,086 raised of $50,000 goal
 
 
230 donations
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