For this April’s report update we will be highlighting stories related to our University Scholarship Program (USP). We are excited to announce that our new Local Program Coordinator, Julio Louis, a former University Scholar graduate himself, is now overseeing Yspaniola’s USP program. Julio, along with Jacob Phillips, our current Princeton in Latin America fellow, have initiated this year’s USP scholar selection process, with the goal to enroll a new scholar in the fall. In order to reinforce Yspaniola’s academic support and maintain an open line of communication, Julio and Jacob have created a list of requirements for current and new scholars in order to facilitate regular check-ins with staff members during their semester. This will not only allow students to frequently discuss their concerns regarding stress, grades, and challenging courses, but also encourages students to clearly understand their responsibilities and expectations of them as they pursue their higher education degrees. With these new additions to the USP selection process in place, Yspaniola hopes to continue to empower students to be independent scholars as they pursue higher education.
Since 2014, our University Scholarship Program has had three graduating scholars who have not only gone on to be educators, but a majority of whom have decided to return to Batey Libertad and work for Yspaniola in our Learning Center. One of our current scholars, Ramón Leonardo Sanchez, is studying medicine at La Universidad Teconológica de Santiago (UTESA). This semester he is finishing his fourth year in medical school, after which he will begin his rotational internship in Santiago this summer. Yspaniola has been able to support him as he transitions into this upcoming phase of his education by providing him with the professional clothing and medical equipment he will need for his internship experience. We wish Ramón all the best in his upcoming endeavors!
Yspaniola welcomes the New Year with revised curricula for students at the Batey Libertad Learning Center. With additional resources, including over 70 children’s books and interactive math tools, our new curricula will focus on problem solving, reading comprehension, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence targeted toward individual student needs.
Yspaniola will also be recruiting an additional teacher for the Learning Center and introducing a new and much larger space with additional classrooms, a library, and an office. All of these changes will contribute to a better learning environment for the students of the Center as they continue to improve their reading, writing, and math skills. With the help of students from the University of Rhode Island as well as community volunteers, who will be helping us clean, paint, and organize the new space, the Batey Libertad Learning Center is set to re-open at the end of January. With these changes, along with the increased consistency in attendance we’ve seen over the past two months, we are excited to welcome the students back and are enthusiastic that 2014 will be a year of success and expansion for Yspaniola!
The Learning Center Grows!
Yspaniola had a productive and fun summer! For the past several months, we built the capacity of the Batey Libertad Learning Center by adding new staff, renovating the Center, and holding a book drive, and we are enthusiastic that these changes will lead to a productive and learning-filled fall.
In June, we welcomed our new Director of Community Education Programs, Cory Fox, who will direct and teach in the Learning Center for two years; she will develop new curriculum focused on emotional intelligence, problem solving, reading comprehension, and critical thinking, and she will develop new evaluation techniques. In July, we held our second annual youth summer camp, in which over 100 children participated in group activities focused on education, music, sports, and art. To assist with the camp, Yspaniola and members of the community recruited over 20 volunteers, both local and international. We also improved the Learning Center space by working with community members, staff, interns, and volunteers to paint walls, add additional classroom space, and, through the book drive, triple the number of books in our library.
As the fall starts, we hold regular classes throughout the week, structured by age group and reading proficiencies. We also welcome four new teaching assistants from the community, who will assist with implementing lessons in the classroom as well as monitoring behavior. The new assistants, Santa, Rosa, Daniel, and María, will attend trainings throughout the year to build their skills as educators and leaders in their community.
With a renovated Center, more materials, and new staff and community assistants, Yspaniola is excited to see the children improve their skills throughout the year!
The Yspaniola scholars successfully completed another trimester and are taking classes and studying hard this summer. Scholars Fede, Ramón and Julio have also been working hard to practice their English with Yspaniola’s English teaching volunteer. English classes are offered in the literacy center in Batey Libertad on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and in early June six young adult students graduated from the first level of the course.
Because of the popularity and success of last year’s summer camp, Yspaniola is pleased to support a two-week educational summer camp this July! Young adult volunteers from the community will lead the kids in different activities: art, education, sports, an HIV/AIDS awareness program teaching through play and games, and music and dance. At the end of the month, the children will display their work from the camp through a concurso, or competition and talent show. Yspaniola will provide a small stipend for the community volunteers and breakfast for the children each day of the camp. Stay tuned with an update about the camp in August!
Yspaniola has had a busy and exciting start to 2013!
In January, we welcomed a group of graduate students from Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs for both a study-tour and project collaboration. The group featured several education specialists with previous experience working with Teach for America, the Peace Corps, the Millenium Village Project, and teaching around the globe. After observing classes in the Literacy Center, the SIPA Education Team worked with our local staff to develop a new curriculum to further Yspaniola's literacy initiative in the batey.
The SIPA students also held a training session for Yspaniola's local staff and volunteer tutors, including Mayra Rodriguez, an Yspaniola scholarship recipient. Throughout the training, the SIPA Education Team successfully demonstrated methods of classroom management and introduced innovative activities geared towards children at various literacy levels. Yspaniola has already begun to implement many of the strategies introduced by the Columbia students, and we are looking forward to a continued collaboration toward an effective and inclusive literacy program.
The SIPA group also traveled around the island of Yspaniola, and was accompanied on a trip to Northern Haiti by Yspaniola’s scholars Mayra and Ramon. The group observed border relations and various manufacturing and development projects near Cap Haitien, Haiti.
In February, Yspaniola enrolled an additional 30 students in the Literacy Center program, doubling previous numbers. In an educational environment in which over 98% of students fail national exams at the primary level, Yspaniola is eager to reach as many students as possible with targeted literacy interventions. All four scholars have also begun to volunteer monthly in the literacy center, serving as effective tutors and role models for Yspaniola’s youngest students.
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