Education: A Catalyst for Change

Guest Blogger: Jane Lorenzi is a senior at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, studying International Affairs and Spanish. She has been part of the Starfish family since 2014 and has volunteered both in Ecuador and the United States. She has also spent time in Chile, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic and is fiercely passionate about justice issues in Latin America.

Jane photo - credit Anna Jordan
Photo Credit: Anna Jordan

I’ve come to realize that material things rarely, truly empower people. Rather, it is the intangible things, such as education, that garner the most transformation. Education does not create dependencies; it sustains and empowers, allowing women in particular to be independent.

In a society where theft is a constant fear, education is a beacon of hope. What you learn in and outside of the classroom cannot be taken from you. Education is the catalyst for change, for development, for dreams that become realities, for peace.

Education allows individuals to empower themselves. With knowledge, they can make informed choices — about their health, about their relationships, about their futures. And it is perhaps the greatest hope that this knowledge will translate to understanding and tolerance, which in turn will work to create a more peaceful, just, compassionate world. A world in which every human being is given the opportunity to grow and evolve and improve and empower himself/herself and others, where every person is treated with dignity, respect, and love.

That’s what makes Starfish so cool.

It empowers its students to become leaders in their communities by supporting their academic needs. Focusing on education is a grass-roots approach, which puts power in the hands of locals who more fully understand the complex nature of the injustices that exist in their own communities.

That is not to say simply going to school will fix all the problems. The education system in Ecuador is broken in countless ways (I’ve yet to hear a positive anecdote about the Ministry of Education). Poorly trained teachers, ill-equipped classrooms, and relatively ineffective curriculum based mainly on rote memorization can deter children from being passionate about learning and/or interested in going to school. It’s often hard to explain to the students how important education is when their school day is more or less miserable and boring.

There are rays of hope though — that despite broken systems, going to school is definitely not all for naught. That education really does ignite change.

Like when Mikey beams about how much he loves English class and practicing his English with us volunteers.
Or when Cristhian talks about his passion for the sciences, biology especially, and how he doesn’t need help with science homework because he understands it.
Or when Maria Belén, one of Starfish’s first students to graduate high school, attends university to study medicine, pursuing her lifelong dream of becoming a pediatrician.

These remarkable students represent the beginnings of a new generation: a generation of passionate, inspired leaders and doers and shakers.
That sounds like a pretty beautiful future to me.

A future that Starfish is shaping, poco a poco.

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. 



¿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

Meet the Students: Parte Ocho – El Fin

With this last post, you’ve now met all of this year’s new students.  These 24 new Scholars join 17 returning scholars and almost 100 new tutoring students.  We are so excited about the growth of Starfish, and also of each one of our students who has made the choice to make education a priority!


Hi my name is Andreina.  I am 13 years old.  I study at “Antonio Jose de Sucre” high school.  I like to sing, dance and play soccer.  My goals for this year are to get good grades and pass 8th grade.  When I’m older I want to be a secretary.

My name is Genesis.  My goals for this year are to get good grades and pass 10th grade.  Above is a picture of Genesis with 2013 Starfish volunteer, Maria.


Hi, my name is Yesenia.  I like to listen to music, dance, study, and swim.  I am 13 years old.  I go to “Aurora Estrada” high school.  It’s going really well, I like my school.  I am in 8thgrade.  My goals are to finish my studies and be a great professional so that I can help my family, especially my brother. 

Meet the Students: Parte Siete

In this week’s Meet the Students, meet newcomer to Flor de Bastión – Jordy, as well as tutoring students Michelle from Flor and Nery from Guasmo that earned their scholarship this past year 🙂


My name is Jordy.  I am 14 years old.  I am in 9th grade.  I go to “Transito Amaguana” high school.  I play a lot of soccer.  I like the colors gold, silver, black and white.  My favorite food is baked chicken with salad.  When I’m older I want to be a plastic surgeon. I’d like to have my own family, house and car.


My name is Kerly, but most people call me Michelle.  I am 12 years old, my birthday is May 9.  I am studying at “Martha Bucaram de Roldos” high school.  I am in 7th grade.  I like to listen to music.  My favorite music is bachata.  I have 4 sisters and 1 brother.  My favorite subject is Computer and Physical Education.  My favorite food is rice with mashed potatoes and meat.  My favorite fruit is achotillo. When I’m older I want to be a doctor. 


My name is Nery.  My goals for this year are to get the best grades and to be a good students, but also a good person.  For me, my family is really special and beautiful.

Meet the Students: Parte Seis

These three all-stars all participated in our tutoring program in Flor de Bastión last year, as some of our youngest students.  Juliana was even one of our overall leaders on our star chart!  They all worked so hard, and we are so blessed to have them as Scholarship students this year!



My name is Juliana.  I am 12 years old and I study at “Agustin Castro Espinoza” high school.  I like the color blue and my favorite soccer team is Emelec.  I have 5 siblings – 4 sisters and 1 brother.  My favorite fruit is strawberry.  My birthday is January 10.  I like math and science.  When I’m older I want to be a doctor.



Hi my name is Anthony.  I like rice & chicken.  I go to “Agustin Castro Espinoza” high school.  I am in 7th grade and my classroom’s on the first floor.  My favorite subject is Science.  In my free time I like to watch TV and help my dad with his work.  I am 13 years old and my birthday is March 23rd.



My name is Betsy.  I am 12 years old and I study at “Humberto” high school.  I am in 7th grade.  My favorite food is encebollado.  My birthday is April 17.  In my free time I like to cook, watch TV and movies.  I also like to listen to music.  My favorite music are ballads, vallenatos and bachata.  My favorite singers are Romeo Santos and Prince Royce.

Meet the Students: Parte Cinco

In this weeks edition of “Meet the Students”, meet newcomers Jhon Jairo and David, as well as Sofia who won her scholarship participating as one of our youngest tutoring students last year!

Jhon Jairo

My name is Jhon Jairo.   My goal is to graduate high school and go to college.  I like the colors red & black.  I would also like to be a soccer player, and also make sure that I stay away from bad habits like drugs.   My favorite subject is math.  My family is made up of 4 other people, with me, 5.  I like to travel, listen to rap music.  I also like language arts and physical education.  I’m doing well in school and I will keep doing my homework until the day I finally reach my goal.



My name is David.  My goal for this year is to improve, get better grades, behave well and help my classmates.


Hi, my name is Sofia.  My goal is to pass 7th grade, and be on the honor roll.  I like to play soccer and when I’m older I want to be a lawyer or a secretary.

Meet the Students: Parte Cuatro

To me, our three students this week have one big thing in common: their family values.  None of them come have what one might call a traditional family, but all of them are great examples of love and perseverance.  Evelyn is a returning scholar, after a one year absence from school and Starfish while she was pregnant with her daughter, Domenica.  Mirka was raised by a single mom with enough energy and love for to make up for it, and Julio was raised by his caring grandmother.  We are so proud of of the young adults they are all turning out to be! Here from them now in their own words, and see their smiling faces with their families: 



My name is Evelyn.  I was born on June 20th, I am 18 years old.  I like music.  I have a beautiful daughter named Domenica.  I like to help my mom.  My favorite fruit is apples.  I want to be a secretary so that I can be successful and give my daughter a better future, to show her the good and not the bad.  I have the best parents who understand me.  First, I give thanks to God, and then to my parents because they are helping me out a lot, and I know that with their help I will get ahead and succeed.


Hi my name is Mirka.  I am 16 years old and my birthday is September 3rd.  I like to listen to all types of music.  My favorite colors are black, hot pink, white, purple and silver.  My favorite food is rice with baked chicken.  I like to be at Starfish because I learn things that I didn’t know before.  I am very happy because this year I’m going to graduate high school and continue my studies so that I can get a good job and help my family.  I am so thankful for everything that my mom has done for me, she has been my mother and my father and I have so much to thank her for.  I also thank the foundation that is now helping me this year.  



My name is Julio.  I am 16 years old.  My favorite colors are blue and black.  I go to “Transito Amaguaña” high school.  I am in 10th grade.  My favorite subjects are math and science.  I don’t like English.  My favorite food is rice & chicken.  I like to listen to music and watch tv.

Part 5 of 8 of “Meet the Students” coming next week!

Meet the Students: Parte Tres

In this week’s edition of Meet the Students – meet Joselyn, Briggitte and Dayana, 3 students from Flor de Bastión who all participated last year in our tutoring program!


My name is Joselyn.  I live in Flor de Bastión.  I study at “Batalla de Tarqui” high school.  I am in 9th grade.  I am 15 years old.  I was born on November 16th.  I like to listen to music – especially vallentato.  I like passion fruit.  My favorite food is lentils.  I don’t like fish.  I like to read and I like math.  When I’m older I want to be a police officer or join the Marines.  My favorite colors are electric blue and light green.


My name is Briggitte.  I go to “26 de Noviembre” high school.  I really like my school.  I was born September 18th.  I have one sister with whom I share a lot of things.  This year I hope to keep up with my studies so that I can reach my goals.  In the future I want to be a police officer.  It’s my dream and I know I can achieve it with the help of God and of my parents.



My name is Dayana.  I am 13 years old.  I go to “26 de Noviembre” high school.  My favorite colors are blue and pink.  I am in 7th grade.  I like to study.  My favorite subject is math, but I don’t like social studies.  When I’m older I want to be a doctor or a teacher.  I hope to reach my dreams.  Even though I don’t have my dad, I will work even harder with my mom and my siblings.  My mom is also finishing her studies and I hope she can reach her dreams as well.  My favorite food is chicken and rice with soup.

Meet the Students: Parte Dos

Meet 3 of our new students in the Guasmo neighborhood: Nagelhi, Jamileth & Odalis!  This is the second part of a multi-part series on our new scholars.  They are pretty awesome and we thought you should know just how awesome they are!


Nagelhi was a tutoring student last year, and earned her scholarship this year with her consistent attendance and positive attitude!  Her older brother Geovanny is a third-year Starfish Scholar.  Nagelhi writes, “My name is Nagelhi,  I am 13 years old.  I like to play soccer.  My favorite subject is Math because I like numbers.  My family is united and sometimes we play and laugh and do other fun things.  I have 3 siblings.  Their names are: Geovanny, Genesis and Jostin.  I like to play and have fun with them.  I like Starfish because they teach me a lot and I like when we play soccer and go on


Jamileth is new to Starfish this year.  Above she is pictured with her mom and sister.  Jamileth tells us, “My name is Jamileth.  My goals for this year are to get good grades and pass 7thgrade so that I can be successful.”


Odalis is also new to Starfish this year, but so far has been a great addition to afternoon group. The afternoon group has most of our older students, and she has fit right in and is always very respectful and a very hard worker.  Odalis writes, “Hi my name is Odalis.  I am 15 years old.  My goals for this year are to pass 10th grade and get better grades.  I like to listen to music while I study.”
Stay tuned for the next part of “Meet the Students”!

Meet some of our new Scholars!

23 of our 41 Scholars are new this year – though most of them participated in our tutoring program last year.  And don’t forget that some of them still need Sponsors. Even if you are not able to make a financial commitment at this time, you may still be able to participate as a pen pal!

We asked all of our students to write a short introduction for all of you.  Today we present to you Gema & Miguel, both new Scholarship students in Flor de Bastión.  Both participated in our tutoring program last year!



I am 14 years old.
What would you like to be when you grow up?
I would like to be a surgeon or I would also like to have a Beauty Salon and be able to live off what I earn.
Favorite Food
Pork Chops with Lentils and Rice
Draw, Paint, Play and do a lot of things
Favorite Pets
Dogs, Rabbits
Favorite Fruit
Strawberries, grapes, green mangoes

I study at Dolores Sucre High School . I am in 1er bachillerato (10th grade).  I have 2 brothers, with me we’re 3.  I favorite color is bright blue.  My favorite dessert is Tres Leches and my favorite candy is Galak (chocolate).  My favorite subjects are Chemistry and Computer.


My name is: Miguel.


I like music.  In my free time I play soccer.  Sometimes I like to watch horror movies, but most of the time I watch calmer movies.  I favorite subjects is Science.  I like to read the Bible.  I am getting ready to participate in my church groups.

On Mondays when we go to school I have to wear a special formal uniform.  I study at Maritza Thalia High School.  I have 4 siblings.  When I grow up I want to be a veterinarian.  My favorite food is rice with lentils and meat.  My favorite fruits are apples, pears, raspberries and watermelon.