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Inside the Program: Affiliation with Carmen & Aracely

Affiliation is Where the Partnership Begins

“To serve is my passion. To listen, to be respectful, and to be kind is something I learned from my parents.” – Aracely Perez

All great partnerships must have a starting place, a beginning. At Common Hope, that great partnership starts with affiliation. Affiliation is the beginning – that moment when a partnership is born between parent, student, and Common Hope. One could liken it to an application process for being admitted to college. The process begins with forms, ensures fixed criteria are met, continues with interviews and home visits, and culminates in acceptance or affiliation. This is the beginning of a partnership that will put educational health and achievement as a priority. That being said, introducing the AFFILIATION program and team seems a good place for this new “INSIDE THE PROGRAM” feature to begin.

Ensuring the right fit, that Common Hope is the right partner, and that families are ready and understand the partnership is critical to producing successful outcomes. Thankfully Common Hope’s rock star duo, Carmen and Aracely, have been leading the affiliation efforts for a decade and are as committed today as they were on day one to help everyone that becomes part of the Common Hope family.

It’s easy to understand their passion and why they are so good at what they do. Balancing need, criteria, and potential is delicate, sensitive work. It requires understanding, history, and trust – all skills both Carmen and Aracely have mastered during their combined 37 years of work at Common Hope.

Meet Carmen. Carmen’s success is a testament to what hard work and perseverance can accomplish. Today, she boasts 27 years of service to Common Hope, and her humble beginnings prove that you can change your life with an education. Even today, Carmen’s upbringing resonates with many girls in Guatemala.

As a young girl, Carmen dreamed about working at a hotel. She loves to make conversation and thought working at the hotel would bring lots of opportunities to meet people. Unfortunately, she’ll openly share that her father struggled with alcoholism, which impacts the entire family. Like so many fathers in Guatemala, he also did not think Carmen needed to study. Why? Because she was a girl.

Luckily for Carmen (and Common Hope), her mother didn’t share this same belief. She supported Carmen’s desire to learn and go to school. Despite the difficulty, Carmen found her way and graduated high school. (According to UNESCO, the female literacy rate is 10% lower than that of their male counterparts in Guatemala.)

It happens that, at the time of Carmen’s graduation, her mother came to the Common Hope campus to sell fruits and vegetables. She overheard there was a receptionist position available and told Carmen to apply. Carmen did and got the job! Imagine being hired as a receptionist in a time before phones were commonplace in Guatemala. Carmen explains, “There was no phone back then. I had to run from place to place to deliver messages.” On many of these “runs,” she had the opportunity to talk with families and hear many of their stories. She loved it. It is what lead her to become a social worker and eventually to her position as Affiliations Manager.

When you meet Carmen, you soon realize why this job is perfect for her. Even though she admits that it is hard to listen to families’ struggles, she knows that her work can make a difference. Carmen is a great listener, and it is no wonder families feel compelled to share their lives with her.

Carmen is one half of this great affiliations team, and Aracely is the other half. Aracely, too, is a testament to what a partnership with Common Hope can mean. “To serve is my passion. To listen, to be respectful, and to be kind is something I learned from my parents,” she says.

Aracely knows all sides of Common Hope. Once an affiliated student herself, she graduated in 1999 as a secretary and soon came back to work at Common Hope. “I love seeing the family’s commitment to the education of their children and the development of their family.”

She knows first hand that family involvement in a child’s education is a powerful influence. For a partnership to be successful, it requires mutual collaboration, support, and participation. She has lived this experience. A struggling family, she and her siblings used to sleep in the same room before their affiliation with Common Hope. But that all changed. And, now, she is helping others’ lives change. “My parents are hard-working people who have taught me the value of education. I want to share that.” In fact, Aracely laughed, saying, “in the early days, people in town were skeptical about Common Hope because they thought they would send their children to the United States if they became a part of the program.” Her parents gave Common Hope a shot anyway.

In her role, Aracely oversees the process for when a family leaves the program or disaffiliation. Today, the most common reason students and families leave Common Hope is because they have moved out of the area or decided to go to work to provide income for the family. Maintaining the requirements of the partnership is a critical element of the Common Hope model. Aracely’s work ensures that a dignified, respectful, collaborative partnership is at the core of all relationships.

Together, Carmen and Aracely make a dynamic duo. They are the face of the beginning of a family’s partnership with Common Hope, literally. And they are the ones that help families move on to the next part of their journey when their partnership with Common Hope ends – be it graduation, moving, or sometimes choosing to leave school. Carmen and Aracely play a critical role in starting and transitioning a family’s success at Common Hope.


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