In the United States, my post-high school plan was clear: go to college. Fortunately, U.S. society helps students create and implement clear next steps – whether that is going to college, to the military or working. Since coming to Costa Rica in May, I have met students and youth developers in the northwestern province of Guanacaste ,and these steps are not typical for many exceptional graduating students, despite community and family support. In numerous cases, potential opportunities are driven by a student’s geographic location and family’s income level.
Meet Eddy Segura, a 12th grader, who for the past four years maintained the highest grades in his grade level at C.T.P. 27 de Abril. Not only is he academically talented, but also he is involved in various activities around the colegio, and is fluent in English. He is a rock-star student! His next step would be to enroll in the University of Costa Rica in San José, but he lacks funding or potential sources of funding. How is this possible?
Instead, Eddy has secured an internship in Liberia working for a hotel, which requires daily travel and funding. If the internship is unpaid, he is unsure how he will pay for this opportunity.
Due to distance and financial constraints, this academically gifted student is unsure of his future. Should income and geographic distances prevent Eddy from pursuing his aspirations?
Unfortunately, Eddy is not alone. Hundreds of other students in Guanacaste suffer similar fates. In Liceo Villareal, eight recently graduated or expected 2013 graduates created the infamous skate park at the colegio. After visiting the site with Acción Joven, who was responsible for coordinating the project, I was shocked to learn that all these students were in a similar situation as Eddy. They had no clear next step!
With more than a decade of youth development, I acknowledge that family support, income and geographic location can hinder students from achieving their full potential. Nevertheless, we do not let that prevent us from working to provide students and communities with equal access to information, resources and training. Something must be done!
How do we increase student, parent and community access to information, resources and training to open more opportunities for our youth regardless of the environmental factors?
Fundación Acción Joven aims to prevent student dropout for teenagers who attend public high schools located in communities of high social risk. This is done through the implementation of projects designed by the educational community, and executed with the help of different stakeholders such as private enterprise, government entities, other nonprofits and volunteers. FAJ currently has offices in San José, Guanacaste, Limón and Puntarenas, and
works with 10 different high schools in those regions. Get involved by visiting www.accionjoven.org/index, emailing [email protected], or calling our San José office at: 2271-4407.
As a current graduate student in Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States, Timothy Evans has worked to combine a decade worth of youth development experience with data analytics to positively impact communities within the U.S. This international experience is providing him with invaluable tools and best practices that allow for organizations such as Fundación Acción Joven to change communities globally.