The primary and secondary school students of I.E. 50190 in the community of Patabamba rarely used to talk about continuing to study in university or the possibility of entering professional careers. Those who finished secondary school either continued to work in the community’s potato fields or are left to look for unstable employment in construction and other municipal projects. The conversation, however, is changing; in no small part due to the example set by the students who took full advantage of Alma’s Pre-university Academy Project.
Roger entered the Academy as a fifth grade student, meaning that he would be part of the first graduating class in Patabamba with access to academy training and the opportunity to continue studying at the university level. He quickly impressed his professors and classmates with the enormous amount of effort he put forth in order to excel in the classes, and was elected the Academy’s Student President by his peers. The community as a whole began to look to Roger as inspiration as well. Being that he was the most driven student, the parents’ association voted to give Roger the money collected in matriculation fees as a scholarship to help him pay for his university entrance exams. In December, he scored 16 out of 20 – more than enough to enter Cusco’s public university. Nevertheless, he decided to take the exam again in February to try for a higher score and, therefore, his major of choice: Civil Engineering.
Roger embraced the new leadership role with confidence, in part because he has always been a role model for his younger brothers. The fourth of six brothers and the oldest living at home, Roger had to take on responsibilities to help his father after his mother passed away three years ago. Balancing a life of work and school as a teenager has not been easy, but when talking to Roger, he is clear that it is all worth it to be able to improve the living conditions of himself, his family, and his community.
Over sixty students signed up for the first year of the academy in Patabamba. Of those sixty, many are still one or two years away from graduating secondary school, others dropped out because they had to work, and another very promising student became pregnant and decided to leave the project.
In 2013, the Academy will function three days a week, with professors hired directly by Alma with consultation from the community’s elected Academy committee. Thanks to the great effort and example of students like Roger, we expect 2013 to be an exciting and successful year in Patabamba.