A Guatemalan Success Story, Thanks To A Cincinnati Nonprofit’s Help In Schools

A Guatemalan Success Story, Thanks To A Cincinnati Nonprofit's Help In Schools
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katy3Katy Volpenhein, a University of Cincinnati junior, is a Charitable Words Scholar on assignment covering media and publicity for the Cooperative for Education’s ‘Fall Fiesta’ event Oct. 12 at Paul Brown Stadium.  Cooperative for Education (CoEd) is a nonprofit organization based in Cincinnati and Guatemala City, which provides educational resources and opportunities to indigenous Mayan schoolchildren in Guatemala’s Central and Western Highlands.

By Katy Volpenhein

 “Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer.”  – Horace Mann

Education is freedom.

Those of us born into a community where education is easily accessible forget that it is a basic requirement to fully participating as a citizen in this world.  It is a basic human right that much of the world goes without.

With that being said, I can remember being seven years old in the 2nd grade, begging my mother not to make me go to school.   But if you asked Ancelma Ortiz, a young woman living in a small village in Guatemala, what she would have given to go to the 2nd grade?  Anything.

Ancelma begged her parents to send her to primary school every day. Her father told her “Girls in this community don’t go to school and if you fail, it’s not my problem.” She was needed in the fields. But eventually her persistence paid off, and her mom enrolled her in the first grade.CoEd.Ancelma

“I wanted to be a scientist, or maybe a teacher,” Ancelma states simply. “All that really mattered was that I was finally going to school.”

However, she soon realized that after primary school, her parents would not be able to afford further education. When Ancelma earned a scholarship from the Cooperative for Education (CoEd) she was nervous to accept but knew that failure was not an option. This was the only opportunity she had to support her family and make something of herself.  While in middle school, she took advantage of CoEd’s textbook and computer programs to learn and grow as a scholar and person. Ancelma has achieved something that is considered impossible in her community. At 22, she is a high school graduate, has a good job, is fluent in English and supports her family.

Cooperative for Education changed her life. Ancelma is so passionate and grateful for CoEd’s work that she has agreed to fly all the way from Guatemala to share her story with CoEd’s guests at their annual fundraiser Fall Fiesta on October 12th.

Ancelma represents just one story in a country where children are born into poverty with no access to an adequate education.  Experts say it takes 12 years of education to support a family of two in Guatemala, but just 18% of Guatemalan people graduate from high school.

That is where Cooperative for Education comes in. Since its beginnings in 1996 with just one school, CoEd has expanded its programs to more than 200 communities throughout Guatemala. Ancelma is just one of 217 Guatemalan students that have benefitted from CoEd’s scholarships. Many students receive the scholarship multiple years in a row, ensuring they get all the education they need in order to succeed.

Development Director Holly End states, “If you are going to give ten dollars to charity, consider donating one of those dollars to Guatemala. It can have as much impact as the other nine. Money goes so much further in the developing world.”

CoEd is fortunate to have supporters who agree that helping Guatemalan schoolchildren is a wise investment.  Corporate responsibility plays such a key role in CoEd’s work. The core idea behind a nonprofit organization is to allow those in our global community who are thriving to utilize their gifts and talents to give to those without basic resources. CoEd would not be able to provide basic educational tools to impoverished children in Guatemala without the support of local companies that attend and sponsor its biggest fundraising event.

Fall Fiesta: Welcome to the Jungle of Tikal will be held at Paul Brown Stadium on October 12. American Mortgage Service Company (AMSC) is a long-time supporter of CoEd and the Premier Sponsor of the event.

AMSC Director of Marketing, Eric Wolterman explained why the company is committed to the cause:

“At American Mortgage Service Company, we take our responsibility as corporate citizens very seriously.  It is important to support local nonprofits like CoEd. Through AMSC’s philanthropy, our company’s success becomes the success of thousands of Guatemalan students who now have a chance to get a good education and in turn a better life outside the confines of poverty.”

After speaking with Eric, it is hard to ignore his pride in the support AMSC gives CoEd. I could not agree more that helping CoEd is a good investment, particularly after hearing a story like Ancelma’s. Even though she started as a field worker, she fulfilled her dream to get an education as the first person in her family to ever graduate from high school.

After working with a company that creates such an impact in this world, it really inspires me to make a difference. I am more grateful for the basic necessities that I have been given throughout my life. As I graduate college and apply for jobs, I know that in order to be happy I have to be working for a company that is not only successfully bringing in revenue but also giving back to the community. Life is a circle and you only get what you put out in the world. It is so important to spend the little time I have on this earth sharing not only my wealth but helping others better their lives with my personal skills and knowledge.

I’m looking forward to meeting the many people and companies that support CoEd’s work at Fall Fiesta.  And I cannot wait to meet Ancelma in person to hear her inspirational story of breaking the cycle of poverty through education.

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