Odalis is a tiny 6 year old who has just graduated in 2013 from preschool. Her mother Julia is 29 and works as a domestic and makes tortillas, which earns her about $60 a month. Her husband Marvin is 35. He used to work as a mason, but he broke his hand and can’t work, so Julia’s pay has to cover all of them. Julia doesn’t read or write and can’t do math, but she wants a better life for her children. Her son is going into 6th grade at the private primary school, San Luis Gonzaga, and she wants her daughter to be able to attend the same school. Odalis is a bright inquisitive girl who loves to play. It’s hard to know how well she will do in primary school, but Julia and Odalis both said she likes being in school, and Julia is committed to supporting both her children in learning and succeeding.
In early March, Odalys was able to join Karina and Raquel on a trip to Leon, about 90 minutes from El Sauce. We have asked Karina to mentor the two of them, since secondary school is rife with distractions for beautiful young women, and we want them to have some other ideas of things that they can do, ways to think about their education, boys, etc. Karina is the perfect person to do this; she has continued on with her education despite many obstacles, didn’t find a boyfriend until college, and is very dedicated to her life and her goals. And she’s Nicaraguan, and not that much older than them, which is important. We can say all of this, but we are “old, white women,” so what could we possibly know about their lives?
Odalys is in her second year of high school, and we can see by her grades that she is becoming distracted. This worries us some, but all we can do is support her the best we can, and we think a mentor like Karina is the best possibility. These meetings are not required, but we have made it clear to Odalys and her mother that we would really like it if she could join Raquel and Karina for these discussions and field trips.
On their trip to Leon, Karina took them to the cathedral, the Ruben Dario Museum (Dario was a Nicaraguan poet who had a huge influence on Spanish literature and journalism of the 20th century), the booksellers at the park, and to a movie. She wanted them to have an idea of some of the culture and history of their country, and to learn more about their own surroundings. We are really excited they all did this field trip, and we hope there will be more in the coming year.
Odalys made it through her first year of high school, no small feat with a pandemic and two major hurricanes sweeping through the area. But she achieved a 77% average, so we are very proud of her. We received her letter to us for the end of the year. We asked her to describe a little about how high school is different from primary school, and her answers were not what we expected, but they make a lot of sense!
Dear Christa and ONE Foundation. I hope this finds you all well.
The difference between primary and secondary school is that there were many new things. I met new friends, new teachers. Also the distance. Now I have to travel much further than before. Before it was a Catholic school and now it is a public school. Before I traveled on my bicycle, now my father brings me on his motorcycle…
I like secondary school better because I learned many new things this year, things that helped me adapt.
My biggest challenge was to overcome the pandemic and continue fighting. The best part of this year was that no one in my family was infected and that they continued here with me, helping me. And also that my parents are still together with me.
I am proud of having overcome the struggles of this year in spite of everything, also of having learned new things and also of having learned things that helped me move forward without giving up.
The thing I most hope for next year is that nothing bad happens, and to do better in school, always continue fighting. May it be a year filled with happiness, peace and love.
With this I say goodbye. I wish you a happy new year.
Sincerely, Odalys Rodriguez
Odalys has gotten so tall! Meghan and Christa didn’t even recognize her at first in the graduation parade for sixth grade. She’s no longer the shortest person in her class! She still has that wonderful dimple, however, so once we saw it was her, it was obvious. She marched with her father Marvin in the parade to the mass, and he presented her to receive her sixth grade diploma. She’s very proud, as she should be!
In this video from the graduation ceremony, the students sing “Adelante” (Forward), a song meant to carry them into high school and towards their dreams. Odalys is second from the right, next to the young man near the podium.
In her year-end letter to the foundation, Odalys makes it very clear how much she loves sports (especially soccer!), and her friends. She even drew us a picture to emphasize her love of sports!
Hello dear Christa, I hope this finds you very well at the side of your family and friends.
High school will be different from primary school because I won’t be with my old friends any more. I will meet new friends, new teachers, and maybe new sports.
What I am looking forward to the most in high school is to earn the trust of all my new classmates.
What makes me the most nervous about high school is that I don’t know if the classes are going to be too hard, or if the teacher is going to be mean.
My greatest achievement in primary school was to learn how to play soccer, as well as baseball and basketball. Because that’s how I went to Leon with my team to compete with other girls’ soccer teams.
With this I say goodbye with kisses and hugs. Take good care!
Sincerely, Odalys Antonia Rodriguez Velasquez
Odalis (sometimes she spells it Odalys) is getting ready to graduate from 6th grade into secondary school, so she is very excited. She wants to go to the regular public school rather than the private one. Her midterm average was 78%, which is a little lower than she’s gotten in the past. But we know she’s a bright girl and will continue to thrive. We’re very excited for her new adventure, and can’t wait to see her at her graduation!
Date: 20 September 2019
For: Christa and the ONE Foundation
Hello dear Christa, I hope this finds you very well at the side of your family.
The best thing about this year is that I made new friends and had a really fun time.
This year I learned new things in math. For example, the area of a circle. I liked learning that very much because it made me happy.
The difference that I have seen this year is that I’ve seen new things like the classes this year for the first year of secondary school. This difference is because I’m leaving primary school and going into secondary. And there will be other differences because I will leave my school and I will go into the Institute and I will have new classmates and new teachers.
With this I say goodbye. I send you a bear hug and kisses and I will wait for you at my 6th grade promotion.
Sincerely, Odalys Antonia Rodriguez Velasquez
Odalis will be entering her last year of primary school next year, which is very exciting for us and for her. Her grades are not quite as high as they were in her first few years, and we hope that she will work hard to keep up with her schoolwork. She ended the year with an 81% average, which is good, but definitely not as much as she usually receives. She’s pretty busy helping her mom take care of the house and her three year-old brother, Jordan. She’s finally growing a bit taller, although she’s still tiny. She’s a bit shy with us, but we did have a chance to take her out to ice cream and talk with her a little, where she opened up a bit. We’re excited to attend her promotion next year, and welcome her to high school!
Odalis received an 80% at the semester, and she will undoubtedly do well enough to pass her year and to continue on next year to her last year of primary school!
We received her mid-year letter to us. For this letter, we asked the girls to describe something they accomplished this year, something they’d like to accomplish for the rest of the year, and to tell us their favorite story or legend from Nicaragua. We’re learning a lot!
Here’s Odalis’ letter to us:
From: Odalis Antonia Rodriguez V.
Hello dear Christa, the reason to write you is to thank you for the help that you have given me. I want you to k now that for me it is a great blessing and that is what motivates me to continue forward with my studies. I believe in god that you will keep helping me and so I continue forward with my studies. And also I want to let you know that this year was a little more difficult but it is because it was a higher grade. Next year will be 6th grade and then I will move on to secondary. So I am only one year from high school, and for that reason I must make an effort to move forward.
So with that I say goodbye. I hope you have a good day.
What is something that you want to achieve this year? What I want to achieve is to pass my grade and go to the next grade.
What is something you have accomplished or achieved this year? I have learned new things in class and I have made new friends.
Tell us your favorite story or legend from Nicaragua.
My favorite story is La Llorona (the Crying Woman). They say she appears at night, looking for the children that she drowned in a lake near her house. She appears at midnight, scaring the people with her white dress.
Odalis is still about as cute as ever, and just as tiny. She has finally grown enough that she can ride her own bike to school every day, which is a huge help to her mother and brother. Her mother Julia has gone back to work, since baby brother Jordan is now old enough not to need her all the time. That’s a huge help for the family. Odalis finished her school year with a little bit lower average, only 78%, but she’s working hard, and we know she’ll do well. She will start 5th grade in February of 2018, so we can’t wait to see where she goes from there!
They celebrated Children’s Day at Odalis’ school and our contact Ashley sent us some pictures. What a cutie! And she’s got some spark, that’s for sure!
Odalis ended the school year with an 83% average. She is now 9 years old and, although she is still tiny in stature, she is definitely a chispa (a spark)! She is always smiling, and willing to take on anything. We held a party while we visited, so that we could celebrate Karina’s graduation from high school, and Tatiana’s and Alondra’s promotions from sixth grade into secondary school. We did a lot of dancing with the students who came to visit from Flagstaff, and little Odalis was right in there with everyone. She is so friendly and open to everyone and everything. We are certain she will go far with that kind of confidence!
For Odalis’ year-end letter to us we asked her to talk a little about her best friend. Here is the translation of her letter:
Hi Christa, the reason for writing this letter is to tell you that I have a friend who is very good to me. She helps me with some things that I don’t understand and I help her also in math class. So the two of us help each other mutually.
I have to say goodbye with a big hug and a lot of love. Odalis
We love the word “mutualmente” (mutually)! All the best to you in fourth grade!
Odalis has grown up so much! She is eight years old now, and just about the most adorable little girl you’ve ever seen. She’s got dimples that last forever, and she never stops smiling. And what’s more, she’s an amazing student. Odalis finished second grade with a 94% average! She proudly gave Christa a tour of her house and showed off her new baby brother. Unfortunately, Odalis’ mother is not working, so things are a little tough. But she is also receiving help from the school, and as long as she gets good grades, they will continue to pay her monthly fees, while our money will go to helping pay for uniforms, shoes, supplies and admission fees.
The hardest thing for the family is that they live about two miles from the school, and her brother has to help her get there on his bike. In another couple years, she can ride by herself on her own bike, but for now, it’s a bit of a challenge.
Odalis’ letter to us from the end of the year was really sweet.
January 15, 2016
I hope this finds you healthy.
What I liked the most was that my teacher taught math really well.
The most difficult for me is to live so far from school, but even so I like where I study.
This year I felt very proud to have received good grades.
(goals) to get good grades and learn new things day to day and to be a good daughter.
I would like to be a teacher to teach and to help my parents.
I like to sing and dance and I am happy when I do that.
I say goodbye with a big hug and I hope to see you soon.
Odalis Antonia Rodrigues Velasques
Odalis says hello to us and sings a song in her little interview with Christa
Odalis and her mother also took us on a tour of her house.
Our contact Ashley, who has been living just for the past year in New York state, returned to El Sauce for a visit in March and brought along presents from Christa for the girls. She was able to meet with all the girls at Marina’s house and she took lots of great pictures. Odalis is still tiny, and still adorable. And oh, does she have some attitude!
Odalis is doing really well at her new school. Her grades are high, and she wrote us the sweetest letter.
“Hi Christa, I hope this finds you and my benefactors well. I like my school. It is very nice. Thank you for helping me with my studies because without help my mother would not be able to let me study. This year, I want to do well in my studies.
Odalis Antonia Rodriguez Velasquez”