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El Poder de la Comunidad: Celebrating the Power of Community

Photo above: New Hope School the day it opened 15 years ago.

Since New Hope School opened its doors 15 years ago, it boasts a strong academic record and is regarded as the best academic institution in the area.

“What makes New Hope School special is its essence, its nobility, its heart of service and its mission to generate hope and opportunity for everyone, not only the children but also for the families, teachers, and administrators.” – Elsa García, Director of New Hope School

In 2020, 269 students in grades pre-k through 6th grade attended New Hope School. Common Hope supported an additional 236 students attending junior high, senior high, and vocational schools in the surrounding communities. In stark contrast to the national graduation rate of 18.6%, New Hope students are graduating at an average rate of 77%. Despite all of last year’s challenges, 30 New Hope students graduated from high school!

Leslie Murga, New Hope Educational Support Programs Manager, has worked at New Hope School for nearly 14 years. She explains what sets New Hope School apart from others. “You enter the school and see it is not a normal school. It is a second home for some of the children. Every educational activity feels like a collaboration between the school and the community, which makes us feel like a family,” she commented.

Leslie, pictured middle, with New Hope students (pre-pandemic)

The education system was, and continues to be, greatly affected by the pandemic. The community of New Hope is located in a “red zone,” which indicates the highest amount of pandemic restrictions. These restrictions significantly affect the ability to deliver programs in the usual manner. Leslie Murga said that she misses the in-person classes and activities like art, sports, and interacting with students in the homework center. Fortunately, teachers and administrators at New Hope School have been working diligently to continue to adapt and develop new strategies to keep kids learning. These include weekly Zoom classes, utilizing WhatsApp to deliver daily lessons, and delivering printed learning guides to families’ homes. “It has been a challenge, but also a time when Common Hope families have come to life and exemplified a unified community like never before. The families have shown that we can count on them at all times,” said Elsa.

Common Hope has seen first-hand that impacting a child’s understanding and value of education, particularly at the beginning of their academic career, can influence lifelong success. New Hope School has built a strong reputation for academic excellence due in part because of a focus on Early Childhood Education. From the age of four, the New Hope Early Childhood Program works to stimulate the brain and engage parents in a child’s development from the start, creating a culture of exploration and learning both inside and outside the classroom.

In primary school, New Hope students receive an education rich in literacy and math––the school’s curriculum encourages active, engaged learning and critical and creative thinking, often not the case in a typical public school. Elsa García, who started at New Hope as a teacher and now serves as school director, has helped impact the curriculum. “Over the years, the teaching methodology, along with being sensitive and attentive to the needs of the students, has improved. We have been identifying the diversity in learning required for our students to be successful,” she said.

Once in secondary school, New Hope students continue to have access to a variety of academic support programs like tutoring, after school homework help, a library and computer lab, and youth programs.

In spite of the pandemic, New Hope School exceeded its promotion rate goal. Of the 510 total students from New Hope, 99% were promoted across all grade levels!

What’s Next For New Hope

2020 New Hope Graduate

The parents in the community of New Hope embraced education from the very beginning and as a result, the community has seen growth and prosperity over the last 20 years. The first students who attended New Hope School now have children of their own and there are marked differences between the generations.

“I knew their parents and the biggest difference between these kids––now adults––and their parents is that they have choices,” said Renato Westby, Director of Education. Continuing, Renato observed, “They can choose where they want to live, what jobs they want, and where they want their kids to go to school. Their parents never had these opportunities…the opportunity to choose. This is what an education provided to them.”

Looking forward, one of Common Hope’s long-term goals for New Hope School is to expand the number of secondary students supported by its programs. A long-term study demonstrated that graduates earn more, get better jobs, enjoy a higher standard of living, are in better health, and are more optimistic about the future.

The school and its secondary programs will continue to foster a culture of exploration and learning that delivers long-term sustainable change by equipping students and parents with the tools and resources they need and desire for success. By supporting and growing education opportunities, the community will continue to thrive for the next 20 years and beyond.

As Leslie Murga shared, “If the walls of New Hope School could talk, they would tell so many beautiful stories.” Elsa García added to this sentiment saying, “Whoever comes does not leave the same. It touches your mind, your heart, and your spirit. It changes your way of seeing life, processes, and people. Best of all, it gives you the opportunity to truly become and agent of change.”

Common Hope looks forward to many more wonderful years of stories shared by agents of change in Nueva Esperanza.


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