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!

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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

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

My dream, Scholars’ dreams, and refugees’ dreams

So, if you’re connected with world news at all in the past week, it’s been a tumultuous week to say the least. Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, and Japan all made world headlines within a few days’ time. But, sadly, another recent news headline started a long time ago (and has progressed): Syria’s refugee crisis.

I’m not writing this blog to take a political stance — but I’m actually reframing this situation for you with a different perspective. For our Scholars, they are blessed to not currently be living in a war-torn country. Their country has not been attacked by terrorists. They are not traveling thousands of miles to a potential new home – hoping that someone will care for them along the dangerous journey.

The sad reality is, though, our Scholars do face very real challenges. They face extreme poverty, lack of food, lack of clean water, violence in their community, gang and drug pressure, and more. The difference I am grateful for is the opportunity for our Scholars to receive an education.

Here is our “Goals” or “Dreams” wall. Each Scholar put his/her dream on the wall, next to a photo of him/her in school uniform. We believe this motivates them to keep focused on their dreams!

We also like to celebrate students’ academic achievements and efforts. Here, Maria Belen congratulates Luiggi, one of our Scholars that we recognized last month!

Pamela, one of our work-study volunteers (who will be starting as an educator for us soon!) dreams of becoming a flight attendant. At her Starfish graduation celebration earlier this year, the Starfish educators and Scholars made her a card that reads, “Congratulations, future Flight Attendant!”

So far, Starfish has had 8 graduates (2 in 2014 and 6 in 2015, four of whom are pictured here). 6 more students are expected to graduate this coming year, in March!

I write all of this to share with you how grateful I am that our Scholars and tutor-only (mentee) students live in a country where there is peace. The challenges for many of these families are large, but the opportunity that these students receive is incredible, and I’m proud we can welcome them to receive their education. 
Throughout my time in Baltimore, I’ve also met many refugees – people whom the U.S. has welcomed into a land of peace, opportunity and education. I am grateful for these refugees, for all they have taught and brought us, and for the kind compassion they have been shown in times of hardship. 
Most importantly, I pray for the people who are not experiencing peace right now, that they find peace and compassion soon in their journey. 
So, tell me – what are your dreams? Share them here, or email me at beth@thestarfishchange.org. I’d love to hear your dreams!

Studying Medicine in Ecuador

Today we’d like to share María’s thoughts on her studies in medicine. This was originally posted to Engineering World Health’s blog.

María graduated from high school & Starfish in March 2014 and since then has worked as a teacher (educador) at Starfish’s tutoring program. She is 17 (18 this Saturday!) and just finished her first semester at college! María writes:
En Ecuador siempre se han enfocado en la educación pero muy poco en la salud, por ello hay niños con desnutrición y deficiencia para aprender. Esto me inspiró aún más a seguir medicina y sobre todo especializarme en Pediatría. Al seguir esta carrera jamas pensé afrontar la obsesión por la perfección de mis compañeros, la desigualdad de genero y sobretodo la imposición de los hombres. Mi consejo es que seguir medicina puede no ser fácil , si bien es cierto es una carrera de resistencia y sacrificios. Pero todo esto a la larga sera recompensado con la mayor riqueza , que es el sentimiento de haber salvado una vida.
Translation:
In Ecuador, we have always focused on education but very little on health. For this reason, there are many children with malnutrition and deficiencies. This inspired me even more to study Medicine and specialize in Pediatrics. When I choose this career, I never thought I’d be met with such problems as classmates obsessed with perfection, gender inequality, and most of all, the imposition of men. My advice is that while studying medicine might not be easy, it is a career of endurance and sacrifices. However, this will eventually be rewarded with the greatest wealth, which is the feeling of having saved a life.

¡Felicidades Graduados!

¡Felicidades Graduados! – Congrats Grads!
Last week, 6 Starfish Scholars officially completed one of their goals – they are now high school graduates!! We are so proud of them; They’ve accomplished so much and have so much more to come.  
Graduates Pamela, Cristhian, Eddy & Lili with Co-Founder Jenn
Lili, Pamela & Cristhian are 3 of the inspirations for Starfish.  I first met them when I was a volunteer in 2010-2011 at Casa Don Bosco, a shelter for street kids that at that the time also ran an after-school program for neighborhood kids.  They were all in the equivalent of 8th grade, but already leaders.  Their perseverance in the face of challenges was part of my motivation for wanting to return to Ecuador and help educate more youth.  Eddy joined this group of inseparable friends 3 years ago when he met the others at school and then joined us at Starfish.  Watching all of them grow up over the years has been amazing.  Each one of them continues to inspire me and teach me new things every day.  
Graduates Joel, Pamela, Mirka, Lili, Cristhian & Eddy at our year-end celebration!
Now Lili is working as a seamstress and with hopes of completing a year of volunteer work in a different part of Ecuador through Casa Don Bosco.  Eddy dreams of studying communications and becoming a TV presenter.  Cristhian dreams of becoming a pilot, and Pamela a flight attendant.  Although they have graduated, Starfish continues to support all of them as they find out all of the options to achieve their dreams! Mirka is the last addition to the Flor de Bastión group of graduates.  Joining us just this past year, she quickly left a grand impression on all of us.  Her maturity is way beyond her years and for this reason our employees chose her to give the welcoming speech and reflection this year as a representation of the whole Flor de Bastión community in our closing ceremony.  Mirka will be continuing her studies this year at the state university where many of our employees study.
Joel and his mom with his acceptance letter to a prestigious college scholarship program!!
Last, but certainly not least, is our lone graduate from Guasmo this year – Joel.  Like some of the others, Joel has been a Starfish Scholar since our first days here in Guayaquil.  He has always shown us 100% effort to do his best in everything that is asked of him, and especially in his studies.  Joel is a natural leader, and a dedicated student.  We always knew Joel was special, and now someone else has recognized him too!  A few months ago we attended a talk about a scholarship open to any student achieving a 9 or higher average in school.  Joel sounded like a good fit and he applied.  After a rigorous application process complete with an interview, tutoring sessions, test and home visit, we found out that Joel was selected for a 100% scholarship!  He will be completing a business degree at the Tecnológico Espíritu Santo along with some of the country’s best and brightest students.  Due to the high costs of the university, this privilege is usually reserved only for the country’s wealthiest.  Thanks to his efforts, Joel now has an excellent opportunity to really break the cycle of poverty in his family and we are so excited to see where this journey will take him in the future!
Flor grads with special gifts from their educadores!!
All of our grads have been invited back to continue to help us as role models and volunteers in the next school year, so we look forward to keeping you updated on their continued accomplishments!!

A Reflection on Senior Year…by Starfish senior Joel

Today, senior Starfish student Joel shares with us a reflection on his last year in high school, and his motivation for the future.  Joel has been with us since the first days of Starfish and we are so proud of all that he has accomplished so far!!

“Hi, I’m Joel.  I’m in my last year of high school.  To be in the last year of high school….it’s gratifying to know that you are about to graduate and meet one of your goals which is to finish high school.  Of course, the last year is not easy because your life is slowly taking an important turn towards responsibility.  One begins to become more independent, but it’s always necessary to listen to others’ advice for something that you don’t understand.  It may be related to your studies, which are important.  Someday, thanks to your academic efforts, you can achieve diplomas or scholarships like what I had, and with these accomplishments, people will respect you as a person.  If everything goes well, in the future they will also respect you as a professional.”

Also important to note, Joel has done an excellent job preparing for his graduation, participating in the equivalent of SAT-prep classes and earning an admirable score on the exam.  As such he is currently exploring 2 options, the public university to which he will automatically gain admittance with his outstanding test score, and a private university scholarship through another local organization which awards scholarships specifically based on merit.  Let’s wish him the best of luck as he continues in the scholarship process!!  ¡Buena suerte Joel!

Spanish language – Joel’s original post:

Hola, soy Joel.  Estoy en 3ro de bachillerato.  Estar en el último de colegio…es muy grato saber que estás a punto de graduarte y cumplir con una de tus metas que es finalizar el colegio.  Claro que el último año no es fácil porque tu vida poco a poco va tomando un giro importante que es el de la responsabilidad.  Uno se comienza a independizar, pero siempre hay que escuchar a los demás, sus consejos, en algo que no entiendes.  Puede ser referente a tus estudios, que son importante.  Algún día gracias a tu esfuerzo académico puedes obtener logros como diplomas o becas como los obtuve yo, y al obtener todos estos logros, las demás personas te van a respetar como persona.  Si todo va bien ya puede que más adelante de te respeten como un profesional.