Happy Holidays, indeed! I just got home from Nicaragua, where I attended three high school graduations, visited with current and former scholarship recipients (and one potential new recipient!), and celebrated with almost all our students past and present.
It will be a while before I can get all this wonderful news and the incredible photos and videos up on each student’s page, but I felt everyone absolutely needed to hear some of the highlights!
This was the kind of trip that made me realize that we ARE changing lives, and I’m still a bit overwhelmed with how wonderful it all felt and feels. Because all of it is such amazing and heart-lifting news, these tidbits are in no particular order!
TATIANA and BELEN graduated from high school on December 10. Needless to say, the graduation march is still stuck in my head, as are the smiles of these two beautiful young women. They leave high school with applications for our post-secondary scholarship, and plans for the university. Tatiana wants to study psychology or social work (which can entail a lot of different things). Belen hopes to study dentistry, but would be really happy with English, as well. They still have to take their entrance exams, and that will determine a lot, but they are determined, so I have no doubt they’ll move forward into the university.
SEYLA graduated from her high school in Leon on December 11. Ashley and I went to attend and we both got to walk with her in the entry parade and to receive her diploma. It was so wonderful to be there! Seyla is so proud and excited; she is the first person in her family (including parents and grandparents) to graduate from high school. And she has no intention of stopping there. She wants to study to be a veterinarian. I hope she can make high enough score on the exam to get into the program; she’d be a great vet. She loves animals and since she comes from the country, she’s used to all the things that go along with taking care of animals.
GLENDA is officially a nurse! If you recall, Glenda left the program a while ago when she got pregnant, but she has worked so hard to finish high school and then nursing school that I still consider her a part of our program. The fact that she has persevered through political unrest and violence, a pandemic, floods and washed out bridges, and a sick child—all while working to support herself—speaks volumes to her understanding of the importance of an education. She once told me many years ago, after she had had her child and was struggling through finishing high school with a sickly baby, “I understand now what you were trying to tell me about education.” No doubt she did. Congratulations, Nurse Glenda! I could not be prouder of you!
And finally (last, but definitely not least!), KARINA did it! She passed her final exam in the university, which means she is officially Licenciada Hazel Karina Martinez Martinez. She still has a few months to arrange getting her titulo and making it all legal, but she is a college graduate in tourism! Karina was our first high school graduate, and although she graduated before we decided to offer post-secondary scholarships, I have been personally supporting her through her university studies. She is like a daughter to me, and I am so excited for her. I went up to her home village of Ocotal to visit her and her family, and we got to spend some time together discussing her plans and ideas. She has a few, needless to say, and I’m so excited for the world!
I visited with Elizabeth, who just finished her second year of the university. She is studying clinical bioanalysis and when I asked her if she liked her classes, she lit up like a light bulb and said, “Me fascinan!” (they fascinate me), which was terrific to hear. She has four more years to go. Michel just finished her third year of university, with one more to go before she gets her teaching degree. I also got to meet our newest scholarship recipient, Raquel, who is just a delight.
I visited with all of our former and current students and at the end of my stay, we had a big celebration dinner with a cake and good food and a lot of laughs. All the graduates were there along with their parents, as well as Karina, Glenda, Michel, Elizabeth, Sua, Raquel and our contacts Marina and Ashley. The only person who couldn’t make it was Odalys, since she lives too far away from town to be out at night. Everyone introduced themselves and the current university students offered some advice to the new graduates. It was really wonderful to watch the connections expanding and see the confidence that the older students have. Some of them have been with the foundation for nearly the entire time we’ve been in existence, and they were all very proud of their association with us. And we with them!
It was a truly wonderful visit. Despite political violence, a pandemic, one of the worst economic situations in the hemisphere, illnesses, family deaths, and so many other challenges, all these young women are moving forward with hope and optimism. And a great deal of gratitude to all of you, our donors. Because without you, none of this would be possible. It’s one thing to have the desire to help; it’s quite another to be able to do that, and you’ve allowed that to happen. Thank you.
So I guess we can consider this a year-end appeal, but so many of you have already donated this year that instead it feels more like a year-end note of gratitude. Please keep checking the students’ pages for more news about each one, and photos from the visit (there is so much more than has been posted here!) and, as ever, pass the news along to anyone you think might want to be part of helping educate these wonderful women—and all our other students!
I’ll leave you with what I think best personifies the joy and delight of doing this work. I was trying to get the students to say hello and thank the board of directors and all of you, the donors. As you can see, it didn’t go quite as planned, but the spirit is there nonetheless. It makes me laugh every time I watch it.
All of us wish you the happiest during this season of light. We wish you much love, friendship, health, and good fortune this coming year and always.
Christa, Janeece, Heather, Meghan, Birgit, and Leslie