Guicela has always been a natural student. On her first day of school some 20 years ago, her parents were afraid she would get nervous and not want to go in alone. To their surprise, she walked right in and didn’t even say goodbye. “I always liked to study and felt happy at school,” she says.
And yet, affording school was tenuous for Guicela’s family. The family of seven struggled to make ends meet when she was growing up. Her father was a farmer and her mother sold flowers and produce in the local market, but they made very little income between them.
News of help for education and health care
When Guicela was in second grade, her mother learned about Common Hope while washing clothes at the community pila in San Pedro. Several Common Hope volunteers came up and told her about the organization offering help in education and health care. She went to the Common Hope offices to enroll Guicela. This was in 1992, and she remembers the offices were in a small house in Antigua at the time.
Little did she know that 20 years later, the organization would have grown to serve more than 3,000 children each year, and her daughter would be working for the NGO, providing resources and training for local public schools.
Inspired to teach
Guicela says she decided to become a teacher because of her experience with Common Hope. During school vacations, Common Hope used to offer a vacation school where teachers worked with elementary students to reinforce their studies. When she was in junior high, Guicela was invited to become a teaching assistant for the vacation school. She made teaching materials, took attendance, worked one-on-one with students, and gave out snack. She did this from her second year of junior high through high school.
Guicela graduated as an elementary school teacher in 2002 at the age of 18, at which time she took a training with Common Hope’s PODER employment program to learn how to write a resume and conduct an interview. Soon after, she got a short-term job as a teacher in an Antigua private school, then worked at a store that sold artisan crafts and souvenirs.
A year later, Guicela got a job at a school in San Pedro las Huertas, where she worked for three years. Her days were long during this period— she worked at the school from 7:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and then at the souvenir store from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Back to school
In 2006 Guicela decided she was ready to go back to school and enrolled at the University Rafael Landivar. She continued working during the week and attended classes on Fridays and Saturdays. After six years of juggling classes and work, she looks forward to graduating this year with a degree in preschool education.
Guicela started working with Common Hope in 2012 as an education promoter for Santa Catarina. Coincidentally, she completed her student teaching at the same school ten years earlier. Guicela says being a Common Hope education promoter is a great job that requires responsibility, dedication, and professionalism. She is always looking for new strategies and ideas that will help the teachers make positive changes in their classrooms.