This year’s graduation in Guatemala was a very special time for many, perhaps even more so for Luis Angel Canel Vasquez and his family. Luis is from San Rafael, a predominantly indigenous community where completing junior high is uncommon let alone high school. He is the very first Common Hope student from this community to graduate high school. After overcoming obstacles and demonstrating that hard work and perseverance pay off, Luis serves as an inspiration not only to his five younger siblings, but also to his community and peers.
Beating the odds
Luis’s father Don Jose, came to Common Hope in 2012 and expressed his desire that Luis continue his education. Generally, it is harder for older children to be sponsored since the likelihood of them dropping out is higher than that of younger children. In spite of the risks involved, Luis was sponsored at the start of his high school career.
In March of 2012, Luis began high school in a community called Sumpango where he studied automotive mechanics. Though continuing his education was a step in the right direction, it presented new hardships for Luis and his family. Luis had to travel by bus every day as a means to attend his classes, which started early at 7:30 a.m. He also had to leave his comfort zone and become acclimated to a new group of people away from his community. Regardless of the obstacles, Luis always demonstrated a great respect for education and he even became one of the top students of his class. Luis received special recognition during the Independence Day parade that took place on September 15; he walked with honors and wore a banner to denote his scholarly success. “We were pleasantly surprised when we got the news that Luis would walk with honors,” said Lesbia Marroquin, San Rafael coordinator, “this made us think that he could achieve graduation and much more by just believing in his family and in his hard work.”
Family support and serving as a role model
Luis’s parents have played a major role in his success from the very beginning; however, supporting their son’s education did not come without sacrifice. Luis’s degree required him to have hands on experience repairing vehicles, which required further monetary investment. Luis’s parents sold one of their cows to get extra money so that they could buy the materials needed for their son to complete his practicum. Since last year, Luis has been employing his skill sets and knowledge by helping his fellow community members fix their vehicles. As a result, his parents have been able to witness firsthand what Luis has learned and see the benefits of his education.
Currently, Luis’s brothers and sisters are following in his footsteps as they are all in school. One of his siblings is in his final year of high school studying computer programming, another is studying to be a bilingual secretary, and the three youngest are in 7th grade, 2nd grade and kindergarten.
“It’s exciting because we didn’t expect to see the results we have seen so soon from this family,” Lesbia mentioned, “I say family because Luis is a role model for his younger siblings.”
Kind words from Don Jose
In a community like San Rafael, where advocating for education is a challenge and where families often encourage their children to drop out early so they can start working, Don Jose says he wants his family to be different. Luis’ father made a speech at the graduation ceremony and mentioned that he can see changes in San Rafael ever since Common Hope started working in their community, and that he is appreciative of all the efforts that have been put forth. Later Don Jose stated “this organization has come to us like angels so that my family’s dreams can come true.”