Tomasa is a 10th grade student enrolled in the scholarship program run by FORMA – Guatemala. She lives with her 5 sisters and parents in the Guatemalan Highlands in a rural area outside of Panajachel called Chaquiya. Her father is a day-laborer works on farms in the area, and her mother takes care of the family and sells popsicles she has made at home. Tomasa likes the area she lives in because it is largely forest with a few cows.
When Tomasa graduated from the 6th grade her father said that was all of the school that they could afford for her. This is a common experience for girls in Guatemala. Tomasa left her small home village to find work. First, she worked in Antigua about 60 miles from Lake Atitlán. Then it was Sololá, about 10 miles away. After a year of working, Tomasa told her mother that she dearly wanted to continue her school and asked if her mother could find a scholarship for her. Her mother heard about FORMA-Guatemala, a Guatemalan non-profit organization that helps youth with scholarships and personal development skills. She talked with Candelaria Xep, the founder of FORMA. Tomasa and her mother walked an hour and a half to Panajachel for the interview. After a couple of interviews, Tomasa was selected for a scholarship.
Last summer, Tomasa was among six FORMA scholarship students chosen to attend a summer English language program in California. She loved living and studying in the United States, and the immersion program allowed her to make great progress in her English. We met Tomasa and the other scholarship students when we visited Guatemala 18 months ago and we were amazed at her progress when we talked to her by Skype this month.
Tomasa and the other FORMA scholarship students make a commitment to spend their Saturday mornings teaching young children in their communities. Tomasa teaches about 15 children in a patio area outside her parents’ home. One of the things Tomasa liked about her time at the English language school in California was the variety of teaching methods used. She tries to follow that example and has integrated games and other activities into her teaching. She says that her students ask why the teachers in the regular schools can’t teach that way.
Tomasa’s scholarship allows her to attend a quality school that provides a good curriculum – an advanced education for Guatemala. However, it takes great dedication. Every day she walks 30 minutes and then rides a bus for 15 minutes just to attend the school. She will graduate from high school next year and would like to go on to University. She would like to teach or be a tour guide. With the dedication Tomasa has shown to get an education and with ’s support, Tomasa has a bright future.