Letter from Nicolás Fund for Education’s National Director

Leanne Sierra Blog 6 Comments

Dear Partners in the ministry: This year was special in many ways. We said that our building was closed but our school was not. And it was real. I just returned from the Ixil area a couple of hours ago. In spite of the disaster created by Hurricane ETA, thanks to your donations, we were able to celebrate the graduation of thirty-eight students from ten different villages! In some cases, like in Villa Hortensia I, these students are the very first graduating class ever in the history of that village! Seven eleventh-graders and two ninth-graders celebrated with close family members. Keeping the COVID-19 safety protocols, we visited the homes of each one of the graduates and performed a mini-graduation ceremony. In the presence of parents and some close family members, we prayed for our graduates and blessed each student’s home. After several days and 25,000 steps, I can tell you, this wouldn’t have been possible without your past support.  In the middle of this pandemic adventure we celebrated. Thanks to you, every one of our Nicolás Christian School students was able to access the gift of education through the use of tablets and the first off-line educational platform of the region with NICO (New and Innovative Learning Content Off-line). In the San Nicolás Village, we had a brand-new graduating class from our preschool. This is the first class of students under the age of six graduating from preschool in the history of the village. In one of the villages we visited, Jacinto Pasá expressed his Joy because his daughter, Maria Isabel, had just graduated from the eleventh grade. I saw that smile and I couldn’t resist staring at him. Jacinto immediately said,  “I AM VERY …

Knowledge First Aid Kit

Shirley Kinsey Blog 1 Comment

The vast majority of the parents of Nicolas Fund for Education (NFE) children are illiterate subsistence farmers who often speak only their local Mayan language. Spanish books help to increase their children’s vocabulary and background knowledge in Spanish, the language used in Guatemalan public and private schools. Our children’s villages—and the entire Ixil Triangle—lack public libraries, and families rarely own books. In response to this need, NFE has started a book drive program that allows these children—who have never seen a library until now—access to books. This week, we opened our first library—with 103 books—in the village of Belen (Bethlehem in English). We ordered the books, which donors chose on our book drive page, at Sophos bookstore in Guatemala City. Our national director, Ivan España, picked them up and delivered them to Belén. Antonio Lazaro, a village father, generously donated the space from his former barbershop for the small library as well as painting and preparing the room with shelves, a table, and so on. The villagers named their library El Botiquin del Saber which translates to Knowledge First Aid Kit. A lovely sign hangs outside the door. Oneyda, a Nicolas Christian School (NCS) 11th-grade student, will act as the librarian by building enthusiasm for reading, tracking books, and quarantining books between users. The principal at NCS, Professor Braulio Bach Cabrera, spoke at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on opening day. Access to books will help village children succeed in school and in life. It will also impact overall literacy and reading comprehension in the area as the children translate these books into Ixil for their parents and as older children read them aloud to younger siblings. Thanks to our generous donors, …

A Sparkle in Her Eyes

Kathy Riper and Lavelle Freudenberg Blog, Student Spotlight Leave a Comment

Juana (Juanita) Córdova is 24 years old and lives in the village of La Bendición. She is one of three daughters and was born with spina bifida. She is very bright and attended the village primary school through the sixth grade. Juanita’s parents are poor farmers. In Guatemala only primary school is free to attend. Even if her parents could have afforded to send her to junior high and high school, it would have required traveling to the larger town of Cotzal. Mobility is challenging for Juanita and she gets motion sickness when riding in a vehicle. Juanita runs the tienda (small store) on her family’s property. She made a space in the tienda for a library with the books that she has received from teams that have visited her over the years. She started checking out books to the village children and encouraged them to read. Knowing how much Juanita loves to learn, Nicolás Christian School began its first distance learning effort in 2014. A tutor, Ricardo, came to Juanita’s home and she eagerly began her studies for 7th grade courses. “I did not talk with anyone before and I was always afraid. But Ricardo looked for the way to remove my fear and I was able to conquer it,” says Juanita, looking back. She made a little study space in her tienda. This allowed her the opportunity to study and look after the tienda during the day. She completed 7th-9th grades in just two years. In Guatemala, senior high school is 10th and 11th grade. Juanita completed both grades in one year. She was able to participate in the Nicolás Christian School graduation in 2016 and receive her …

Exciting Key Performance Indicators at Nicolás Christian School!

Becci Merritt Blog Leave a Comment

Each year, the Guatemalan Ministry of Education administers standardized testing to 11th-grade students and 9th-grade students. Nicolás Fund for Education has only been able to access those results concerning Nicolás Christian School (NCS) since the 2018 results became available. Frankly, those first results were disappointing. None of our students passed the national standardized test. What was more disturbing was that very few students from any school in the Ixil area passed this test. Results in more urban areas were also surprisingly low. Academic Director Bill Safstrom cautioned, “It is important to remember that these tests are aspirational. It is expected that no one will achieve 100% on this type of test.” Bill Safstrom commented that these initial results were helpful because it provided much-needed information on where our strengths and weaknesses were at Nicolás Christian School and “…the data was a place to start”. The evaluation measures the learning of students throughout their educational history. It is not a curricular evaluation but rather an evaluation of basic life skills. NCS Math Scores Exceeded the Guatemalan Ministry of Education Expectations The difference in the students’ average score in relation to what was expected may be because of the work they do at NCS, which is related to the teaching strategies our teachers use in the classroom, Professor Braulio’s educational leadership as Principal, our Christian school climate, and use and creation of learning opportunities. The Ministry of Education takes into account the Socioeconomic and Cultural Index (ISEC) of our students’ families and, based on that information, our average math scores actually exceeded what was anticipated by the Guatemalan Ministry of Education. Challenge Accepted Being a Mayan female student is unfortunately associated with lower …

Education is an act of love.

Becci Merritt Blog, Student Spotlight Leave a Comment

Our Mission Our mission is to equip the future generation of leaders through Christ-centered education to transform their families, villages, and the Ixil Region. Our students who have graduated are becoming leaders in their communities and some are pursuing additional education that will allow them to become teachers and Principals in local schools. This is a REALLY exciting time for NFE as we are seeing our graduates obtaining secure employment that pays a living wage.  Byron Ortiz I’d like to share the story of one of our graduates with you. In Guatemala, it is quite common for university students to go to school on the weekend and work during the week. Byron Ortiz was one of the top 2019 graduates from Nicolás Christian School. After graduation, Byron determined that he wanted to study network and communications engineering at Mariáno Galvez University in Huehuetenángo.  He applied for a scholarship with our Ten Talents program. He told us that he was very eager to find out if he had received that scholarship because the John Maxwell leadership training that he had received at Nicolás Christian School had taught him that he needed to make a plan and set goals for his future. He couldn’t determine his plan until he found out whether he had a scholarship. If he did not get the scholarship, his plan was to work and save enough money to go to university. He did receive a university scholarship through our Ten Talents program and moved to Huehuetenango.   Balancing Work and School Byron got a job at a large supermarket stocking shelves. He now works six days a week and receives a steady paycheck that enables him to pay …

God’s Guiding Hand at Nicolás Christian School During COVID-19

Lavelle Freudenberg Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Kaen Ta Kab’al – Stay at Home “God has gone before us. He has prepared our school in ways none of us could have anticipated.” These are the words of Becci Merritt, NFE President, and Board Chair, as she explains how Nicolás Christian School has been able to help its students, staff and their families in Guatemala during the COVID-19 crisis. Miraculously Prepared Who could have known what 2020 had in store for the world – governments, schools, businesses, transportation, and healthcare have been turned upside down over COVID-19. While schools around the world scramble to figure out how to educate their students with their doors closed, Nicolás Christian School miraculously finds itself able to keep its students learning through a just-in-time final delivery of electronic tablets and a pre-planned approach to deliver digital learning to remote villages.  The system, initially designed for distance education, is ideal for at-home learning.  Within 24 hours of the first COVID-19 case being identified in the country, Guatemala instituted strict quarantine rules which affected NCS overnight. In Ixil, the quarantine rule is called Kaen Ta Kab’al, which means Stay Home. All schools were closed, both public and student transportation were shut down, and the means to provide the breakfast and lunch for students during the school day were cut off. But, through the grace of God, Nicolás Christian School’s preparations during the previous three weeks were able to be implemented quickly. To be ready if and when the first case arrived in Guatemala, a cleaning plan had been established the first week of March using a solution of diluted bleach to disinfect all surfaces in the school, and a nurse was brought in to teach proper …

NICOLAS CHRISTIAN SCHOOL ADDS NEW TOOL TO HELP KEEP KIDS IN SCHOOL

Lavelle Freudenberg Blog Leave a Comment

It takes a village to raise a child! This popular proverb, born out of an old African tradition, may sound like an overused phrase, but nevertheless, it is very relevant when it comes to teaching and engaging the Ixil children in their learning. Many recent studies in nearby areas outline the challenges students face in learning and what stands in the way of retention. Results indicate three groups where improvement can be focused: Motivating the students themselves Training teachers to identify and address individual learning styles and needs Showing parents and families the value of education and engaging them in the learning process Approximately half of the students in nearby areas report that they have considered dropping out of school. The reasons vary. One of the biggest challenges is poverty. Families wrestle with a lack of finances. Many eke out a living making between $2 and $4 per day and struggle to make ends meet. But that’s not all. Students report emotional and psychological barriers, such as apathy, boredom, family issues, and fatigue. But one of their biggest challenges, they say, is discouragement. While Nicolas Christian School cannot address all these problems, we can address some. Beginning in 2020, Nicolas Christian School will begin using the Progrentis software learning program with students in grades 7 – 11 to improve teaching and learning. Generously funded by an anonymous donor, Progrentis focuses on digital information and literacy skills, rather than course content. Utilizing project learning and group work, Progrentis is aligned with the learning targets for each grade level in Guatemala’s Curriculo Nacional Base. Progrentis software does a diagnostic analysis of each student and determines the preferred mode of learning for each …

What kinds of educational services does NFE provide in Guatemala?

Lavelle Freudenberg Blog Leave a Comment

Filling a Much-Needed Gap Nicolás Fund for Education focuses on providing education for the indigenous Mayan youth of the Ixil region of the Guatemalan Highlands. We are filling a much-needed gap in educational services in the region, where the government-funded education in Guatemala averages only four years and ends after 6th grade. Only three out of ten children graduate from 6th grade. Our brand new preschool is showing amazing results; our secondary school is growing; our students are attending school through higher grade levels than in the past and our graduates are going back to their villages with the skills and knowledge they need to build thriving communities. Through scholarships and learning opportunities, we are helping lift vulnerable students out of poverty. They, in turn, are returning to their homes and villages to become leaders and help break the cycle of poverty in their communities. The big news for our secondary school Nicolás Christian School is a new home. In 2019 we moved to new temporary quarters in Nebaj until we can move into our permanent location near Cotzal where NFE has purchased land. Our permanent building should be ready in two years, depending on our fundraising. We are currently serving 124 students aged 7th through 11th grades in leased space at Centro Technologico Ixil (CTI), a building owned by the nonprofit Agros International. What is the relationship between Nicolás Fund for Education and Agros? Nicolás Fund for Education is a 501 (c) 3 organization with a mission to equip the young people of the Ixil region with the skills and knowledge they need to become the future leaders of their communities. Agros is a separate 501 (c) 3 organization …