The goal of Voces y Manos’ scholarship program is to ensure that all participating students receive the support they need to achieve academic success, and become empowered agents of change in their communities. To achieve this goal, Voces y Manos hired Jenifer Valey Gomez and Macario Vasquez Reyes, recent graduates of Voces y Manos’ scholarship program, as program interns in 2013. Taking responsibility for youth empowerment and community engagement, Macario’s efforts have focused on coordinating empowerment workshops for all participating scholarship recipients. Jenifer’s efforts have focused on supporting scholarship recipients academically.
Both Jenifer and Macario have become almost like older siblings to our students. On most weekdays, our small office is packed with students huddled around computers or textbooks, receiving tutoring from Jenifer and Macario. In addition, students often come into the office just to visit, or to get advice. The importance of the close relationships Jenifer and Macario have formed cannot be overstated; they build community, which is the foundation that allows our students to achieve their full potential.
In December of 2014, Jenifer and Macario conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the Voces y Manos Scholarship Program. The evaluation showed that students’ grades improved markedly from 2013 to 2014. Below, we present highlights from this evaluation. Once the evaluation is fully translated to English, we will provide links to the full evaluation.
The purpose of this portion of the evaluation is to measure and evaluate the academic progress of Voces y Manos students in 2014 compared to 2013. Below, we present a comparison of students’ academic grades in 2013 and 2014.
The Guatemalan school system assigns grades on a 100 point scale. As shown in the graphs above, the average student grade point average for 2013 73.6. This was a statistically significant increase of 4.2 grade points between 2013 and 2014 (p=0.04).
We attribute this success to several new strategies that were implemented in 2014. These strategies were designed to proactively support students who were struggling with their schoolwork. Support not only included academic tutoring, but also included moral support, and encouragement. Specifically, the Voces y Manos team sought to improve students’ academic grades by:
- Visiting students’ schools every two months to meet with teachers.
- Requiring all students to punctually submit report cards at the end of each academic term.
- Creating “support plans” for students struggling with their academic grades.
- Leading workshops on motivation and self-esteem for all students.
We also observed qualitative improvements in students’ attitudes toward school, and self-confidence. For example, one student (whose name we are omitting to protect her privacy) came to us at the beginning of the year to say that she was feeling that school was not useful to her. She found school difficult, and was thinking of giving up. At the time, she had a GPA of 60, just barely passing. We talked to her and provided her not only academic support, but emotional support as well. By the end of the year, she had experienced a complete transformation. She was optimistic about schooling, and her grade point average had improved dramatically, from 60/100 to 80/100!
In summary, we believe that the strategies used during 2014 year to improve students’ grades were very effective. In 2015, we will continue working personally and individually with students to support them in school and in life.