Julio Ponce: 2017 Graduate

26190743582_3eedcd05ef_bGraduation is always a time for celebration, reflections, and looking ahead. This week, I had a conversation with Julio Ponce about his education thus far, what might be next, and the people who inspire him to dream big.

Are you going to attend college? And, if you are going to attend, what do you want to study?
Julio: I plan to go to university to study architecture or nursing.

What are some of the most important moments you remember from school – your favorite memories?
Julio: The most important times were spending time with my friends. The most unforgettable date was when I took part in the flag ceremony.

What are some goals that you have for your experience and studies at university?
Julio: My goal is to get a degree in architecture and to create a building that is well known.

Is there a person who inspires you?
Julio: The person who inspires me is my mom since she has always worked hard for me. Now it is my turn to work hard for her.

Have you changed during your time at school?
Julio: Yes, I change my habits at school; now I’m more responsible. I’ve also learned to express myself and am comfortable speaking in front of the other people on various subjects.

How did you discover and develop your talents and skills during school?
Julio: I already had the talent but the more time I spent at school, the more those talents developed. I found I was also able to teach certain skills to my classmates and teachers.

What do you expect to achieve over the next five years?
Julio: Get a university degree and share it with my family so I can help others.

If you could change one thing about your educational experience so far, what would it be?
Julio: I would not change anything because what I’ve learned in school will help me in my life.

Wow! Now that’s a smart and highly motivated Starfish! With this kind of thinking, motivation, and desire to succeed, we know Julio will achieve great things.

“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Interview with a Graduate: Joselyn Calle

29333905716_08584a97de_zSwam on down to Ecuador this week to connect with one of our 2017 graduates – Joselyn Calle. We chatted about memories from the past and dreams for the future. 

Are you going to attend college? And, if you are going to attend, what do you want to study?

Joselyn: If I go to college I would like to pursue law degree.

What are some of the most important moments you remember from school – your favorite memories?

Joselyn: Getting together with my classmates. To have shared many experiences and anecdotes that in the future will tell my children about.  

What are your expectations for your university experiences?

Joselyn: I think my goals and experiences at university will be nice and satisfying.

Is there a person who inspires you? If so, why?

Joselyn: The people who inspire me are very special in my life. They have given me support and trust, which inspires me.

Have you changed during your time at school?

Joselyn: Yes, I have noticed some changes in myself. I have become more responsible, my skills have grown which makes me proud because I feel that I am a very capable person.  

Calle Joseline-2017What talents and skills did you discover or develop at school?

Joselyn: My skills and talents are unique, I believe I’m a woman who is very capable of doing different things. I do not have a specific talent but I feel that I am able to fulfill my dreams and goals.

What do you hope to achieve over the next five years?

Joselyn: To have accomplished my goals and continue with my professional career.

 

If you could change one thing about your educational experience would it be?

Joselyn: My educational experience was very pleasant, so I would not change anything. They are anecdotes in my life which give me many examples, so I would not change anything.

Thanks Joselyn! And congratulations of your graduation. We know your future is bright and full of wonderful experiences. 

Hugs!
Henry

 

¿Vas a asistir a la universidad? Y, si vas a asistir, ¿qué quieres estudiar?

Si voy asistir y me gustaría seguir la carrera leyes

¿Qué son unos momentos más importantes que recuerdas del colegio- tus memorias favoritas?

Si voy a las reuniones con mis compañeros. Haber compartido muchas experiencias y anécdotas que en algún futuro serán contadas a mis hijos

¿Qué son unas metas que tienes para tu experiencia y estudias en la universidad?

Mis metas y mis experiencias para la universidad pensar que voy hacer sean agradables y satisfactoria

¿Hay una persona que te inspira? Si hay ¿Por qué?

La persona que me inspira es muy especial en mi vida la cual me ha brindado su apoyo y confianza por esa razón es una inspiración para mí

¿Has cambiado durante tu tiempo en el colegio?

Sí, he notado algunos cambios en mi me he vuelto más responsable mis capacidades han aumentado lo cual me enorgullece porque siento que soy una persona muy capas

¿Cómo descubriste tu talento y tus habilidades en el colegio?

Mis habilidades y talentos son únicos yo me creo una mujer súper que capaz de realizar diversas cosas no tengo un talento en específico pero si recomiendo que soy capaz de cumplir mis sueños y metas propuestas

¿Qué esperas lograr durante los próximos cincos años?

Haber culminado a seguir con mi carrera profesional

¿Si pudieras cambiar una cosa sobre tu experiencia educativa que sería?

Mi experiencia educativa fue muy agradable por lo cual no cambiaría nada ya que son anécdotas en mi vida la cual me dan muchos ejemplo por  lo cual yo no cambiaría nada

Notes from a Scholar: Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

Over the past week, I took a wonderful trip down to Ecuador to visit one of our awesome Starfish students, Mayerli Bravo. We discussed her future, goals, family and faith. Let’s take a look at what Mayerli had to say about where she sees herself in five years:

myerli“In five years, I imagine myself finishing high school, graduating with my friends and school fellows, celebrating with my family that important moment of my life, as they have been an essential pillar for the achievement of my goals.

Furthermore, I imagine myself focusing on a college degree, maybe acquiring some knowledge in a specialization, and afterward focusing and projecting myself on it.

Because my family has been very supportive, I would like to become a specialized professional so that I can help them and reward them all the hard work and effort that they have devoted to me and my studies. Certainly, they can feel very happy and proud of me

I would like to be able to study veterinary medicine or become a stewardess.

I know that with God´s guide and the moral, emotional and physical support from my parents, I will be able to meet my goals.”

Thanks again, Mayerli, for an awesome conversation! I just know that with your passion, motivation and family support, you’ll be able to do anything you set your mind to!

Until next time,
Henry

Original interview:

Me imagino dentro de cinco años terminando el colegio, graduandome con mis amigos y compañeros, festejando con mi familia ese gran momento de mi vida, ya que han sido un pilar fundamental para el cumplimiento de mis metas.

Ademas me imagino enfocandome en una carrera universitaria, quizas adquiriendo un poco de conocimiento en una especialidad para luego enfocarme o proyectarme en una de ellas.

Gracias a que mi familia ha sido un gran apoyo, me gustaria ser una profesional en alguna especializacion, para asi poder ayudarlos y recompensar todo el arduo trabajo y el gran esfuerzo que han dedicado en mi y en mis estudios, y desde luego puedan sentirse muy contentos y orgullosos de mi.

Quisiera poder estudiar veterinaria o llegar a ser una azafata.
Se que con la Guia de Dios y el apoyo moral, emocional y fisico de mis padres podre cumplir con mis objetivos.

Starfish Scholars: Dreams for the Future

Hi everyone!

Welcome to 2017! I hope you had a wonderful New Year and had a chance to relax with family and friends. During my New Year celebrations, I traveled back to Ecuador to ask a few of the kids something that I’ve been itching to ask, “qué te motiva para sobresalir en tu educación?” or “what motivates you to excel in your education?” I was blessed with some wonderful answers and I’m excited to share them with you! So, let’s find out what motivates some of our students.

Itaty Morocho says that her family and future are what motivate her the most. 26010318620_267954ae85_z

“What motivates me to work hard at school is my family and my future, but first my future because it’s what I want to be, an excellent professional since my studies could help better the lives of my family. When I’m in the workforce I want to change the type of education that exists now, because in some institutions there’s not the education that the youth of today need.

In some institutions they don’t have teacher or adequate classrooms to teach in among other things. Because of this I’d like to change the education system. I’d like to help the youth be less fearful and to be themselves.”

Joselyn Calle now knows that education is essential to her future.

25679369943_6b5f4c5b6a_z“When I was a little girl, education was never very important. But today I have realized that it is essential. Education allows you to reach your goals, a goal goes beyond your purposes, to what you want to be. I realized when I entered high school that studying is a challenge that you have to overcome each day. We have to get ahead, we have to create an objective. It does not matter how difficult this objective is, the most important thing is to achieve it and not stagnate.

Studying doesn’t matter if we don’t put in the effort, the desire, the enthusiasm, this small grain of sand that we need in life to triumph in our studies with SUCCESS.”25680490553_c8fc270e89_z

Milena Zambrano says that her parents are her number one reason for motivation.

“What motivates me is thinking of my parents, because they want the best for me. Now I’ve just started high school but with my strength and dedication to my studies I know I’m going to succeed, I’ll see myself graduating in 5 years.

YOU CAN ALWAYS SUCCEED WHEN YOU TRY! NEVER GIVE UP! KEEP GOING FORWARD!”

I am so proud of Itaty, Joselyn and Milena for their motivation in education! Regardless of the reason, education is very important and I am proud of our students for their hard work! So, readers, what motivates you?

Until next time,
xx Henry

2016: A Year in Review

Wow, another year gone past, and at Starfish it has been a busy and exciting one! We wanted to take a quick moment to go through our year in review:

This year we currently have about 125 students participating several times per week each! “The quantity of students enrolled in Starfish is a testament to our staff and programs that more people always want to enroll and are excited about education!” says co-founder Jenn.

From March Madness to the Baltimore Benefit Dinner our year was off to a great start! Our Sponsor a Scholar program really took off, and Starfish welcomed new friends and volunteers.

Summer was a busy time for us. June started with an awesome soccer tournament which helped raise funds for the organization. In June we also launched a 5th tutoring group out of our head quarters in Flor de Bastión.

In August we had our “Friends of Starfish” trip where volunteers went to Ecuador to  capture photos and stories, participate in tutoring sessions, and re-launch our Snapchat account. They also joined our scholars for a field trip to the Botanical Gardens. In August we also had our talent show – showcasing our talents and leadership skills – “that night was magical because we were together as a family and we all gave our whole hearts, because Starfish is our little home.” said one participant.

Throughout the summer we had fantastic volunteers in Ecuador who helped with workshops, taught English, helped coordinate soccer an taught sport classes, creating a mural, and even put together Professional Development Workshops for staff.

During the summer, our 11th and 12th grade students also started getting into teams to start working on their Senior Service Projects. The four scholars in Guasmo have teamed up to work with a local hospital and/or shelter to volunteer their time and energy and also the bring needed items like food and clothing. They also plan to organize activities to bring them joy. The other three projects are being carried out in Flor de Bastión. The first, focusing on communication and integration hopes to bring people of the community together to improve relations. The second group, who are still ironing out the specifics, hope to work with seniors to brighten their day. The third group is planning literacy classes for adults in the neighborhood who never learned to read or write.

In the Fall Scholars in Ecuador hosted their annual “Olympiadas” where they participated in various athletic activities. They also restarted their recycling initiative including an awareness campaign for the local community. In the US, we had a fundraiser at a Baltimore Orioles game – great fun!

The US and Ecuador came together for our first annual #StarfishSearch Scavenger Hunt – as teams of up to 6 individuals competed for 12 hours to capture fun photos and videos, complete random acts of kindness, and spread the word about Starfish.

And, perhaps, most important, we celebrated our 5th BIRTHDAY this year on November 9th, which was a great time for us to reflect on how thankful we are for “The help of all of our long-term volunteers from the U.S. and worldwide who have brought unique projects and skills to Starfish – their knowledge and skills they teach our students and staff really make a lasting difference!” This year we also saw our Social Media Interns program grow which was really amazing, and we super appreciate how they’ve helped our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages grow.

As we look back, we know it is also important to look ahead, and look forward to continuing to grow and serve in the coming years.So what are we looking forward to in the new year?

Here are our 7 New Year’s Resolutions for 2017:

  1. Finalize our registration as an Ecuadorian non-profit
  2.  Purchase land and begins plans to build new classrooms
  3. Continue to increase the quality of education we offer at Starfish so students can receive a quality education and skills necessary to be successful professionals despite the broken school system they are forced to attend
  4. Continue to improve other services offered at Starfish to help remove other barriers to education and create well-rounded young people ready to make a difference in their communities and the world
  5. Expand our partnerships in Ecuador in order to better serve our students and their families
  6. Get our college prep program up & running so our students have the tools they need to gain entrance and to be successful in college.
  7. Seeing the amount of people who learn about Starfish continue to increase!

92744-537112_10151522938759061_280721677_n

Happy 5th Birthday Starfish!

Earlier this week, the Starfish Foundation celebrated it’s 5th birthday! That’s five years of providing scholarship, tutoring, and leadership development to youth living in extreme poverty in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Over that time frame, Starfish has grown and grown – and currently serves over 120 scholars in Guasmo and Flor de Bastion.

Jenn and beth.jpgThe idea for the Starfish Foundation developed after co-founders Beth and Jenn volunteered for a year in Ecuador, where they volunteered at a shelter for former street kids. A lot of these kids had no family or little support at home. Though many of them had the motivation to study, they lacked financial resources to be able to attend school once leaving the shelter.

Though public schools in Ecuador are free, families often still struggle to provide all the necessary materials (uniforms, books, school supplies, etc) while living on minimum wage and trying to feed a whole family. For many, the easiest solution was to not go to school. The Starfish Foundation works to fill a need that focuses on the importance of education as a catalyst for future success of each student and their communities, and provides scholarships and mentoring to students in financial need who have the motivation to continue their studies despite challenging circumstances.

But the success comes not just from funding scholars, but also seeing bright, caring, thoughtful individuals find the means to achieve their goals. It’s about seeing faces light up with smiles. It’s about promoting confidence through talent shows and interviews. It’s about creating a sense of community through outreach. It’s about improving our environment by encouraging sustainable living and recycling. It’s about service and instilling the values of hard work and giving back to the community in our scholars. It’s about big dreams, and big plans, and big ideas.

It’s about giving every scholar the boost they need to be the best version of themselves.

Over the last 5 years, there have been a lot of incredible moments for Starfish. Some highlights for Beth include:

  • On the trip last year, there was a moment when we got together all the “original” Starfish Scholars. It was kind of like the end of A League of Their Own – very nostalgic to remember back those early days, but impressive to see how these young adults (now) have grown up and are now giving back to Starfish as employees or volunteers!
  • Bringing my parents and best friend (basically my sister, in Spanish they call her my ñaña) to see Starfish. They are SO supportive and it was so special to have them meet our Scholars and their families!
  • The experience of growing our Board this fall. It was really the first time we had done anything quite like this – but the interviews with so many WONDERFUL people were delightful. I have loved getting to know our new members and seeing their positive energy. They have already started to give back in so many extraordinary ways!
  • Our 5th birthday! It was a tiring week, and a challenging time to see our country divided in the election, but in the midst of stress and discord, it was something to celebrate. The amount of people who wished me a happy birthday that day — I wondered if I should double-check my birth certificate 😉

As we look back, we’re so thankful to everyone who has been a part of this journey – we’re thankful for the support, friendship, prayers, and donations. As we look back, we know it is also important to look ahead, and look forward to continuing to grow and serve in the coming years. Some of our goals include:

  • Putting together a robust U.S. Operations team. We’re well on our way to doing so – an amazing set of Managers / Advisers for Development, Communications, and Volunteer Management, efficient Admin team of our Sr. Admin Assistant, Accountant, and Tech Guru, and an amazing team of Social Media interns. We have work to do, though, in creating the best structure to maximize capacity and efficiency – and I’d love to see us get to a great point with that.
  • Officially registering in Ecuador, buying land, and building our dream “house.” It’s the longest, most complicated process EVER, but we are nearing the end, and that’s pretty incredible.
  • Supremely increasing the attendance at our Giving Tuesday and An Evening for the Stars (Baltimore Benefit Dinner) events. We have some SNAZZY new tricks up our sleeve (this year, for example, just your presence at any Giving Tuesday results in a $10 donation to Starfish – thanks to a generous match!)
  • Seeing the amount of people who learn about Starfish continue to increase!

I hope you can agree it’s been an incredible Journey, and yet an even more amazing one awaits us. I also hope you’ll join me in wishing Starfish a very warm and loving HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

starfish-birthday

Starfish Scholars: Dreams and Goals for the Future

Hello all, Henry here! Thank you to those of you who joined us earlier this month for the #StarfishSearch Scavenger Hunt. I loved seeing all your pictures and videos, and sharing in your day as you completed random acts of kindness and completed fun tasks. You guys sure made me smile! Check back next week for a review – complete with pictures and videos from the hunt!

This week, I also had the chance to connect with some of our Starfish Scholars about their life goals – where they hope to be in a few years, and what would make them feel successful, and now I’m here to share their stories with you.

First I connected with Melissa who wants to go into the medical field when she’s older. She is inspired by the people she met in her life and the struggles they faced:

28744235494_043e01c534_z“When I was ten years old I would see many sick people and many of them died due to some severe illness. This inspired me and I decided I would be a nurse or a doctor in order to cure all of the sick, and in this way find a cure for all of the illnesses and reduce the mortality rate of the country. I want to be a nurse or doctor recognized at the international level, with cures for all types of illnesses including AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

I don’t want to give treatments, but instead provide cures, because it saddens me that people die. I am scared of death. I would not like to die. I eat well and stay healthy in order to not contract any fatal illness. I invite you all to take care of yourselves each day. Life is not a game, it is a gift from God and only He can fix it.”

 

What an amazing goal Melissa! I know with your hard work and dedication to the cause, you’ll go far in changing to bringing good health to those around you.

Next up, I met up with Geovanny. He sees himself as a police commander in five years. Why? “To help my family,” he explains simply. We know he’ll do his part to make the world, and his community, a safer place.

Milena has different plans. In five years she hopes to be a flight attendant:

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“I imagine myself in 5 years finishing school, graduating with all my classmates, my parents would be happy, going to university, picking a profession that allows me to be a flight attendant, this will help us see how God’s timing is perfect.”

 

 

 

My last stop on this trip was with Detsy. She has a love for children and hopes to serve them through the field of pediatrics:

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When I grow up I would like to be a professional in the area of pediatrics. Since I was little I have always liked children; I always considered that they are the ones that need care and attention, and because of that I would like to be a great doctor.

I know that to be able to accomplish my goals I should focus on my studies. Right now I’m still in high school and have a few years left before I can graduate. For now I will dedicate myself fully to my studies so that I don’t have obstacles and I can achieve the goals that I’ve set.

I know that a pediatric degree requires a lot of dedication, because it’s a degree that demands a lot of time and effort, but with the help of my parents, professors and my own commitment, I will be able to become a great pediatrician.

I just love young people with BIG goals, BIG dreams, and BIG plans, and I know with commitment to education, hard work, and the support of the people around you, anyone can do BIG things. The four students, along with the rest of the Starfish Scholars will go on to do great things.

What greatness do you hope to accomplish in life? I’d love to hear from you!

All my best,
Henry

Metas para el Año Nuevo= New Years’ Resolutions!

Our students share their resolutions for the 2016! We are so proud of them, especially as they continue to set, and achieve, their goals.

Jerico Acuña: 
“My goal for this year is to finish with good grades.”
Mi meta para este año es pasar con muy buenas notas.

Arelisa Rodriguez
“I think that for this year, my goals are: to do well in school, and to conquer problems that life presents me.” 
Creo que mis metas de este año es transcurrir mi año escolar y superar los problemas que se dan en la vida.

Briggitte Bravo:

“My goal is to be in good health, and to be able to apply myself in my studies.”
Estar con salud y poder aplicarme en mis estudios.

Joselin Cevallos: 

“My goal for this year is to be able to finish the school year with excellent grades and to be able to continue sharing my time with people whom I love most.” 
Mi meta para este año es poder terminar con excelentes notas el año lectivo y poder seguir compartiendo con las personas que mas quiero.

Milena Mora: 

“My goal for this year is to be able to continue with my studies, and this way, also be able to continue being a scholarship student at the Foundation.”

Mi meta para este año es poder continuar con mis estudios y así tmb poder seguir siendo becada en la Fundación.

Ariana Sosoranga: 
“My goal for this year is to get good grades and to be able to continue being a Starfish scholarship student.”

Mi meta para este año es tener buenas notas y poder seguir siendo una de las becadas de starfish.

Maria Loor:
“My goal for this year is to finish with good grades and to be a top high school graduate, and to spend the year with people who I care about the most.”  

Mi meta para este año es pasar con buenas notas y ser una buena bachiller y terminar el año con las personas que mas quiero.

Diego Barrezueta:
“My goal for this year is to be able to finish high school, and attend university.” 

Mi meta para este año es poder terminar el colegio y seguir la universidad.

Jean Carlos:
“My goal for this year is to get good grades in my exams, and to be able to graduate and to start university off on the right foot.” 

Mi meta para este año es que es sacar buenas notas en mis examenes de grado y asi poder graduarme y comenzar con pie derecho la universidad.

Back to School!

Educadora Jasmin & Volunteer Mirka helping Flor students set goals for the first semester!
Classes officially started back up last Monday, May 4 here in Guayaquil.  We are so proud of all of our students, new & old, who are making the commitment to one more year of education!  At Starfish tutoring is off to a great start.  We have 55 scholars and over 60 non-scholarship students already enrolled and participating in our daily sessions.  A growing wait list may mean even more exciting additions to our programs in the coming months!
Guasmo Scholars Mike, Sara & Briggitte during an icebreaker on the first day of class!
So far in the first few days of tutoring we have focused on getting to know each other a little better, as well as establishing guidelines for a great classroom environment and setting some SMART goals for the semester.  The educadores have done a great job planning ahead for a successful year and we are excited to see all of the exciting things our Scholars accomplish.  Next week our summer volunteers begin to arrive, so stay tuned for updates from them.  Our Scholars always enjoy learning from our visiting volunteers as well as sharing a bit about life in Ecuador.  
Arelisa in her new uniform at a brand new school!