Seyla Hernandez was recommended to us by our friend Ashley in El Sauce. Here is her letter describing Seyla and her situation:
Seyla is an extraordinary young lady from a very small, rural town on the outskirts of El Sauce. She lives in a tiny community called Ojo de Agua, which is near the town of Guacucal. I have gotten to know Seyla through the Ciudad Hermana scholarship program, which she has received since she was in third grade. She has to walk 45 minutes to get to school every day, because her community is so rural. Seyla’s family has struggled financially, because there are no opportunities for jobs where they live. Her father is a day-laborer, doing whatever odd jobs he can find, often helping out in the fields. However, he also has health issues that make it difficult for him to work. Thanks to the Ciudad Hermana scholarship, Seyla has been able to continue her elementary education, and she has officially graduated from 6th grade! Her teacher has moved up with her each year, and tells me that Seyla is a rare gem, because she is such a sweet young lady and a hard worker who truly wants to continue studying. Unfortunately, many girls in Guacucal end up getting married shortly after finishing 6th grade, and very few continue their education into secondary school. Seyla is determined not to be one of them. She is 15, which is a little older than most 6th grade graduates, but this is because she started school later than most kids due to the distance that she lives from school (her parents didn’t want her to be walking such long distances alone at 6 years of age, which I understand and respect, especially since she has studied and has done very well!).
Every year, the scholarship recipients write a thank-you letter to their sponsors. This year, it broke my heart to read her letter, because at the end of her letter, she wrote “I don’t know if I will be able to go to secondary school because my family can’t afford it”. She was so proud of herself to have graduated, and it is heartbreaking to think that she might not be able to continue studying because she doesn’t have enough money to buy her school supplies and pay the bus fare to get to class. There isn’t a high school in her community, so in order to continue her education, she will need to travel to El Sauce. Most students from Guacucal and the surrounding areas who do continue into secondary school study on Saturdays in El Sauce, so that they can take the public transportation into town and study, then return to their home in the evening. This is what Seyla would like to do, so that she can travel with other students from her community. Without the support to pay for her bus fare every Saturday, and to purchase all of her school supplies, Seyla would not continue her education beyond the 6th grade, and she would have essentially no opportunity to get a job to support her family, or her future children if she chooses to form a family of her own. I know that Seyla truly wants to continue her education, and without the support of a scholarship, this would be essentially impossible for her.
Here is a translation of Seyla’s application letter to the foundation:
My name is Seyla Junieth Hernandez Perez. I have two sisters and will enter my first year of secondary school and my favorite class is mathematics. I have lived 16 years in Ojo de Agua near Guacucal. I live with my parents, I went to primary school in Guacucal.
My family doesn’t have very many resources. My mother is a housewife and my father doesn’t work much because he has kidney problems. I am the youngest of the three children and I help my mother with the housework.
My big dream is to keep studying in high school and for this reason I am writing to ask for a scholarship because my parents can not continue helping me. I am ready to commit to the requirements of the program, as are my parents.
I will be studying on Saturdays because my community is so far away from town. I hope you take into consideration my request. Thanking you in advance,
We are so happy to be able to help Seyla continue her education, and we are very excited to see where she goes in her life!
Christa spent quite a bit of time with Seyla during her visit in December. She visited her parents at the farm they manage about 30 minutes south of El Sauce and spent quite a bit of time talking to them. She learned that Seyla is the first in their family to graduate from high school, so we are really excited about that. Now that Seyla lives in Leon with her husband, she doesn’t spend as much time at home anymore, and her parents were obviously glad to see her.
Seyla was just glowing through the whole visit, and her graduation. She is clearly so proud of herself, as she should be. She did really well in her last year of school; being in Leon clearly helped her with her confidence and her studies.
Ashley and Christa were able to attend her graduation in Leon, and Christa got the honor of walking with her in the entrance parade and sitting with all the other family members. There weren’t that many students, so it was more of an intimate affair than in El Sauce. It was a really enjoyable day, and Seyla was really excited to receive the gifts from the foundation. We always give each graduate $100 to do what they want with, and also a copy of I am Malala in Spanish. It’s a great book, one that we hope will inspire these graduates to continue with their educations as long as they can.
Seyla tells us that she loves animals and wants to be a veterinarian. She wants to work for the coming year and try and earn some money before applying to college. She promises that she’ll send us a scholarship application. We really hope that she can study what she wants; she would be a great vet. She’s calm and quiet and very gentle, and we think the animals would be lucky to have her.
Seyla’s year-end letter to us was very sweet. We’ve included the translation here:
06 February 2022
May this letter bring my greetings to all of you who make up the ONE foundation. I would like tell you about my experience of all of the years of my high school education. Since the first year, it was very exciting and interesting to learn about many new things. By the time I finished high school, I learned that when we push ourselves to do something, we can achieve it with a lot of effort and dedication, and I hope I can accomplish all of my goals.
For right now, I would like to work in a business so that I can save money to be able to study the subject I am interested in at the university next year. Thanks to God, I am well and I hope to continue moving ahead by always striving and being the woman who I am.
Above all, I thank you all for your collaboration and help which you have provided since my first year of high school through my last year. You have always been there for me, thank you so much for your support: Christa, Birgit, Janeece, Leslie, Meghan, Heather and Ashley!
Seyla Junieth Hernández Pérez
Seyla has been studying hard and working towards graduation. Her grades are actually pretty good—better than they were in El Sauce. She sent us her graduation photo, and she graduates in mid-December.
We’ve been out of touch a little with Seyla, since she lives far from town, and doesn’t have a phone. We heard that in the middle of the year in 2020, she got married. At first we decided that she couldn’t be part of the program anymore, which made us very sad. We realized, however, that our “rules” don’t say anything about getting married, only getting pregnant. Seyla is not pregnant, she finished her fourth year of secondary school, and she wants to continue on to finish high school and go on to the univsersity. So the board asked her some questions about her intentions, the support she receives from her husband, and her ability to stay in touch with us. She really wants to continue with school. She is going to move to Leon to be with her husband, but our contact in El Sauce, Marina, will still handle her funds.
We asked her to write us a letter answering some questions. Here is the translation:
January 5, 2021
- What was your biggest challenge this year, and what was the best part of your year?
My biggest challenge this year was not being able to go to class for a few months because of the virus, and upon returning to class it was very difficult to understand the materials given to my classmates. The best part of the year was that I was able to achieve my goal of finishing the school year.
- What are you most proud of that you accomplished this year?
I am very proud that, despite having a lot of difficulty in my studies I was able to finish the year and I will go on to my fifth year, my last in secondary school.
- What is it that you most are hopeful about for the next year?
I hope to return to class and give my best to my studies, so I have to study a lot and get my best grades, and be able to finish my year. That’s my biggest hope.
- You are about to start your last year of high school. What are you thinking of doing when you graduate? Tell us your thoughts about what comes after high school. Have you looked into what it will take to accomplish this? Tell us what you will do to make these dreams into reality.
Yes, I want to study veterinary medicine. After high school there will be much to learn, much more than we learned in high school. This will help us to be good business people in the work we want to undertake. It will require much effort and desire to succeed.
For my part I will make a lot of effort and I will fight to finish my secondary school with good grades, in order to be able to enter into the career of my choice. I know that with your help I will accomplish this.
Seyla finished her second year of high school with a 75% average, which is pretty good. She loves English, although she’s shy about trying to speak it to us. She still works and lives with a family in El Sauce during the week, and attends school on Saturdays, then goes home to her family in the country on Sundays. It’s not an easy path, so we are proud that she is persevering. When we finally were able to get her to talk, she talked very excitedly about her love for animals and how much she would love to be a veterinarian. Of course, this meant we had to show Seyla all the pictures of our animals at home, and we spent a while talking about cats and dogs.
We are very proud of Seyla and her work in school. She is holding steady and working hard, and that is not an easy thing to do when you have to work all week and then learn the whole week’s classwork in one day! We are very excited that she is continuing to study, since it is so easy to give up when you have so much on your young shoulders. Seyla received a 71% in her classes for her mid-term grade, and she is justifiably very proud.
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 Seyla’s letter to us. We love that she told us a story about Nicaragua’s most famous literary figure, Ruben Dario:
September 8, 2018
Hello dear Christa, I hope that this finds you healthy and in the company of your family. This letter is a way to thank you and ONE, who have given me a lot of help. Your collaboration has made it possible that I continue my studies and thus finish a course of study, which is my dream. Thank you for everything, I hope to see you all soon.
This year, I have learned many new things. I am very happy to be with my family and to know that you are well; this month I am taking exams. I have to study a lot to do well and not to fail a single class; here in Nicaragua the crisis in our country has affected us and we pray to god that Nicaragua will be free again.
Ruben Dario, poet of Nicaragua, tells the story of when he was a child living with his mother in a little house in the town of Dario, in the state of Matagalpa. One day the boy disappeared and he mother worried. She looked for him very worriedly and didn’t find him anywhere. His mother was a beautiful woman with dark eyes and short hair. His mother arrived at a corral filled with cows and the child Ruben Dario was there nursing from a cow and the cows were chewing their cuds, and the mother carried him away in her arms and gave him a spanking.
Sincerely, Seyla Junieth Hernandez Perez
Seyla is now working full time as a maid in a house in El Sauce. This means that she doesn’t get to go home very often, and we know she misses her family. She studies on Saturdays, and it’s pretty challenging, but she’s working hard. She finished her first year of high school with a 71% average, which is really good when you take into account that she’d helping clean, cook, and care for a small boy at her work the other 6 days of the week. We are so impressed with her perseverance, and her desire to continue to move forward. She’s a lovely, quiet, and very shy young woman, and we just love her.