Hermelinda, age 9, says school work is much easier this year. “Before when the teacher would say a word,” she says, “the letters wouldn’t come into my mind and I couldn’t write them. This year I can.” Since last year, Hermelinda has become an avid jump roper — surprisingly, this may be the key to her leap ahead.
A second grader at our Santa Catarina partner school, Hermelinda participated last year in Foquitos Prendidos, or Lit Lightbulbs. Led by Common Hope psychology staff at our partner schools, the program introduces a series of brain stimulation exercises for first graders. The program’s 15 sessions incorporate physical movement that integrates the left and right hemisphere of the brain and develops students’ memory, organizational skills, peripheral vision, ability to concentrate, and cognitive functioning.
When Common Hope psychologist Felipe Bagur first brought jump ropes to class last year, Hermelinda had a very hard time. She also struggled mightily with jumping jacks. Felipe and her teacher told her she needed to practice as much as she could. As Common Hope Psychologist Flor García describes it, “We met a shy, insecure, and incredibly uncoordinated girl with learning difficulties. She responded to most of our activities with ‘I can’t.’ But after experiencing small victories like jumping rope, hitting a ball with a racket, or juggling with handkerchiefs, which she loved, she began to believe in herself and get better.”
Today, Hermelinda can jump-rope up to 20 times in a row before catching her foot. Plus, she seems to enjoy the exercise. “Every day I go home, change clothes, do my chores and homework,” says Hermelinda, “and then I do jumping jacks and jump rope.”
Flor says that it has been a joy to watch Hermelinda’s transformation. “During recess she would ask for the jump rope,” says Flor, “and you could see the pride in her face when she said ‘Look teacher, I can do it!’ It was a wonderful gift to get to know her. We have such admiration for this inspiring little girl.”