by Caroline McGee,
Guatemala Grants & Communications Coordinator
Saturday was an exciting and slightly nerve-wracking day for some of Common Hope’s affiliates. Students came to the Family Development Center to write essays for Common Hope’s university scholarship competition. Not at all nostalgic for the days I spent writing my own college essays, I thought I would show some solidarity for the students and at the same time gather some information for Common Hope supporters who might be interested in this process.
I arrived at around 8:45 a.m. and headed over to the education area, camera in hand. I crept into the computer lab, trying my hardest not to disturb the students. Ten students were in this first round, and they didn’t seem to notice my presence in the slightest. As I quietly walked around the lab, taking a picture here and there, not one student stopped to look up from his or her computer. Their fingers moved at an incredible speed, slowing down only momentarily while their minds churned with new ideas.
A question had been scrawled on the whiteboard at the front of the room: “¿Qué puedo ofrecer para crear una Guatemala distinta a la que es hoy?” Or, “What do I have to offer that can make Guatemala different than it is today?” I started to think about all the possible answers these young students could give, and how, despite all the challenges they faced, they were already creating positive change for Guatemala, whether they realized it or not.
Not many 18 year olds would want to spend their Saturday morning in a computer lab writing an essay, but these students know that a higher education would allow them to create positive change not only for themselves and their families but also for their country. Watching them concentrate so hard made me all the more curious to read their responses, but I decided I might distract them from writing under a time crunch. So instead, I ventured outside where students for the next round were anxiously waiting their turn.
An Aspiring Dentist
I approached a young girl who was standing alone. She told me her name was Nancy, she was 17 years old, and she comes from a family of six brothers and sisters. She has been affiliated with Common Hope since she was seven years old. I asked Nancy why she decided to pursue one of Common Hope’s university scholarships. She said, “Because I think it is a great help that Common Hope offers, so that we can continue to study at the university level, and also because financially it would help me.” Nancy’s hope is to go to dental school, a degree that takes seven years in Guatemala. She says she wants to become a dentist “because it is a career where I can help people and let them know the importance of oral hygiene.” I asked her if she was nervous (she said “a little” and laughed), and I wished her luck on her essay.
After a few minutes, time was up for the first group, and they printed their essays with the help of Margarita Díaz, a member of Common Hope’s social work department who is in charge of the university scholarship program. Everyone from the first group cleared the lab, and Margarita invited the second group to take their seats. I watched as Nancy chose her computer and sat down nervously. Margarita quickly gave them instructions and introduced the essay question written on the board. Nancy and the others got to work fast, concentrating and typing away just as the others had. Not wanting to bother them anymore, I snuck out of the lab.
Hope for Guatemala
As I was heading home, I couldn’t help but feel that my own hopes for Guatemala had been uplifted after watching those students write. Knowing that they are the future of this country is not just inspiring, but it also makes me proud to say that I work for an organization that helps to create positive change in Guatemala.
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