By 6 AM, Ingrid is out the door to head to school. She meets another MAIA Impact School student, Zoila, so that they can walk to the bus stop together. Ingrid doesn’t return home until 6 PM, but her mother affirms that despite the long days, she comes home with the same enthusiasm that she leaves the house with each morning.
Her enthusiasm for studying first took hold when she was much younger. Growing up in a small rural community in Sololá, Ingrid started school at five years old. Due to her shyness, she rarely spoke in class and did not get to know her classmates well. Despite this, Ingrid had a deep love of learning. Before her father passed away when she was in 5th grade, he encouraged her to continue studying so that she could one day support the family. She cites her father as “her strength to keep moving forward.” Fueled by the desire to continue her education, she would help her mother to weave so that she could pay school fees. She knew she wanted to study past 6th grade, but Ingrid also recognized that she needed financial assistance to do it. One day, Ingrid came across a new opportunity to keep studying and receive a scholarship when members of the MAIA selection team made a presentation at her school. Ingrid decided to apply for the scholarship—she was excited about attending school with all girls and being taught from skilled educators.
When Escuela Estrellita started, she was happy because that was when she first met her classmates. Unlike her previous experiences at public school where she struggled to connect with others, Ingrid formed friendships, including her best friend, fellow classmate María Florinda. “She understands me, and I love her. She’s the best friend I’ve ever had.” Her time at the Impact School also brought other changes. She shared, “Before, I did not talk a lot because I was very shy. I am smart, but I didn’t share my opinions and thoughts. Now, I give my opinions and am comfortable voicing my thoughts to others.” She credits vocal empowerment exercises and spending time with outgoing classmates at school for helping her to grow more confident in her voice.
Ingrid has shined in some of her favorite experiences at the Impact School. During her first year at the school, she was the flag bearer when the Girl Pioneers in her grade participated in the Independence Day parade. The honor of flag bearer is awarded to the student with the highest grade point average of the trimester. The following year, Ingrid was invited to represent MAIA at two events outside of Sololá. In Guatemala City, she presented before marketing companies, sharing her thoughts on how they can incorporate indigenous Guatemalans more inclusively in their marketing. In Antigua, Ingrid and a group of Girl Pioneers shared their biggest dreams before the audience at Creative Mornings, an international monthly breakfast series.
Ingrid’s successes are striking considering her health challenges. She entered the Impact School malnourished after growing up without access to a healthy diet. During her time at the school so far, she has received support for this. Despite the financial strain on the family, her mother purchases medicines that Ingrid needs, and she has seen great improvement in her health condition. Her mentor, Isabel, shared, “She is one of the most dedicated students. She surpasses expectations and despite the obstacles that she has had, she always recuperates and keeps up with her classmates. She has taken great advantage of the opportunity to study at the Impact School.”
When Ingrid isn’t in class or reading during free time at school, she focuses on studying English in an intensive language program on the weekends. As she looks forward to the future, “I have many dreams,” she says with a smile. She’s not sure if she wants to be a tour guide or business owner, but she is hopeful that she will have the chance to decide when she continues studying in the future.
Regardless of where exactly she is headed, she knows that education is the path not only to fulfill her dreams, but also to change her society. “Education is important for eliminating violence and having an empowered voice. We have to study to become independent and not have the same experiences as our grandmothers and mothers because of machismo. With education, we will be able to change society, and women will participate more fully.”
Photos by Yihemba Yikona
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