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.
Yspaniola is proud to celebrate the continued success of the University Scholars Program, which fully supports from Batey Libertad while they study at UTESA in Santiago. Our newest scholars, Julio Louis, studying Tourism, and Ramon Sanchez, studying Medicine, are both incredibly motivated and have adapted quickly to both the demands of UTESA and the activities which Yspaniola provides to complement university coursework.
Along with Mayra and Fede, Julio and Ramon have excelled at UTESA in their given fields. The scholars have found themselves working frequently in foreign languages, as well as perfecting their Spanish comprehension and writing skills. Our commitment to improving the skills essential to professional life keeps us in constant search of innovative teaching tools and resources. Recently, our scholarship coordinator, Mirta Aguirre, participated in an educational debate tournament in Haiti, where she acquired helpful techniques that will supplement her individual tutoring sessions with each scholar.
In addition to the happenings at UTESA, Julio Louis recently graduated from the American Language Partnership International, a prestigious English language institute in Santiago. He placed among the top three students in his graduating class. We are confident that Julio, graduating from UTESA next year, will excel in all that he sets out to do.
This Fall, Yspaniola's local team conducted the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) with students in the Literacy Center and in the Batey Libertad public school. The EGRA, developed by USAID and RTI, is an innovative tool to assess student's weaknesses in oral and written comprehension, as well as phonemic awareness and Spanish fluency. The EGRA results will help Literacy Center staff to implement targeted interventions with each student, as well as assist public school teachers in targeting their own students' weaknesses.
It has been a busy and exciting summer for Yspaniola: in July, we opened a Literacy Center in Batey Libertad!
At the beginning of the year, Yspaniola interns based in Esperanza began informally tutoring children in Batey Libertad.
Given the amount of interest in these sessions and the dedication of local staff to the project, in June Yspaniola began a series of community meetings and focus groups to determine if and how to move forward with creating a space in Batey Libertad devoted to learning. The community rallied behind the idea of a Literacy Center, a safe space for children to read and participate in extracurricular tutoring sessions led by Yspaniola staff and interns.
June and July were devoted to furbishing the center, which became truly an international effort: children in Batey Libertad painted the center; community members built a table and a bookshelf; a local school donated desks; Dominican volunteers offered books; Yumiko, an intern, reached out to friends and family who bought school supplies, books, and provided funding; and a service-learning trip from Sudbury, MA brought supplies as well.
As August progresses, we are preparing a registration process to begin a semester of learning that corresponds to the local school calendar and includes parents and the schoolteachers in their children's education. By working with parents and closely monitoring student engagement and improvement, the Literacy Center will be a resource for Batey Libertad and give its children more possibilities and hope.
Yspaniola is thrilled to announce two new scholars from Batey Libertad to the University Scholarship Program. This April, after a selection process of applications, essays, and interviews, an impartial committee selected Ramón Sánchez and Julio Louis to receive Yspaniola scholarships to further their education. The new scholars will study alongside current scholars Mayra and Fede at UTESA (Technological University of Santiago) beginning late May.
Ramón is an outstanding student who participates as a trainer with Deportes Para La Vida, a program that educates youth about HIV/AIDS. He will study medicine with the eventual goal of becoming a doctor to provide healthcare to communities with few resources.
Julio is an excellent student who currently studies at UTESA. He has a gift for languages and is studying tourism, with an interest in ecotourism. He is also interested in Haitian-Dominican relations and history.
A special welcome to the program’s new Scholarship Coordinator, Mirta Aguirre. Mirta, originally from Argentina, is a passionate educator and is looking forward to working with Mayra, Fede, the new scholars and the rest of the Yspaniola Local Program team. Yspaniola and the new scholars will work closely in the next few weeks in preparation for enrollment. We are very excited to welcome Ramón and Julio to the program and wish them luck in their studies!
Last week on January 14, Yspaniola scholars Mayra and Fede began their first day of classes at the Technological University of Santiago (UTESA), after spending a holiday break with their families. Each scholar is taking seven courses this semester, with classes such as cultural civics, French, English, mathematics, and the sciences. Yspaniola is proud to announce the expansion of the scholarship program: this winter, students from Batey Libertad are applying through an extensive selection process to have the opportunity to study alongside the current scholars in Santiago. An impartial committee will select two new scholars in April. Good luck to all those who apply!
A group of 11 students from the University of Virginia traveled to the Dominican Republic for a ten-day service-learning trip with Yspaniola. The students stayed with families in Batey Libertad, worked with youth from the local primary school, and engaged with the community while learning about sustainable development. Some students plan to return to Batey Libertad and apply as interns or volunteers with Yspaniola.
This weekend Dominican volunteers will be working with students from Batey Libertad Escuela Básica in our newly developing Hermanitos tutoring and mentoring program, which connects university students from Santiago and other parts of the country with primary schools students from the community.
The women of the Microenterprise Project have finished the first cycle of paper maché house construction and have begun to sell their work! Next week, the group will meet to discuss the next steps, planning for a new cycle of production, and involving more young women in the project.
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