As the leaves turn and school starts in the United States, our students in Guatemala are wrapping up their school year, which runs from January through October. Twelve Starfish students will be graduating from high school this fall, gaining a position as the most educated members of their communities and certainly the most educated women. We are so proud of these students who have worked so hard for twelve years so that they can walk at graduation.
One of our 2012 Starfish graduates is Celena. Celena and her twin sister Yolanda were among the first young women to join Starfish when the project launched in 2008. Like so many of her peers in Guatemala, Celena faced tremendous discrimination for being poor, indigenous, rural, and a woman – less than 5% of indigenous girls in Guatemala even complete elementary school. At the time, Celena herself questioned if she would be able to continue her schooling beyond 7th grade because of what is commonly known as the “double burden” that a girl’s secondary school represents for her family. This refers to the increased costs of her schooling plus the lost opportunity costs of her performing the majority of the household chores. Celena’s parents, neither of which completed primary school, were struggling financially with the costs of providing for their 5 children. Celena’s future was in jeopardy.
Thanks to a scholarship from Starfish, the intensive support of her mentor, Marilena, and the support of her 15 peers in the “United for a Dream” mentoring group, Celena has let her light shine. She graduates high school in November and will be among the first women to do so in her community. She has organized an initiative to clean up a littered vacant lot in her community all day every Saturday and Sunday while going to school full time. At home, Celena regularly tutors her younger sister and helps her parents’ access previously unknown resources like health systems and banking. In her mentorship sessions, she has honed her leadership skills and defined her ambitions for the future. She is currently applying for university scholarships to pursue her degree in teaching. Celena is also training to be the next Starfish One by One mentor. All the best to Celena, who will put her knowledge and experience to use to unlock the potential of other young women in Guatemala.
Posted on October 1, 2012