At right: Study Center students pictured with teacher Juana Lopez (back), PEX program graduate.
2007-Present. A major challenge for learning in the San Martín area is that instruction is normally provided in Spanish, the national language, while Mám — a Mayan dialect — is the language most commonly spoken in the home. In order for underserved individuals to prosper in local society, an understanding of Spanish is needed. Health issues and socio-economic areas also thwart children's studies. Services offered at Xela AID's Study Center, El Centro de Estudios, are helping bridge the education gap.
Founded by two dedicated Xela AID volunteers (see History below), the Center provides tutoring to children and young adults with a focus on improving comprehension of lessons, and reading and writing in Spanish. The Center also provides a safe and stimulating environment for learning, the company of others who wish to excel academically, nutritious snacks and organized physical activity.
The Study Center operates weekdays from 2-5 p.m., welcoming an average of 20 students each day.
Outcomes at a Glance:
The Study Center has:
• Provided daily tutoring in math, writing, reading in both Spanish and Mám for a total of more than 150 children, many of whom were at risk of failing subjects or grades. Daily records of students’ attendance indicate that an average of 20 students/day visit the Center and more than half of these students visit multiple days each week.
• Provided stimulated access to computer technology
• Increased students’ attendance to school
• Improved students’ school grades
• Increased students’ use of the Center over time (increased their likeliness of seeking academic assistance when they need it)
• Provided nutritious snacks, daily, and organized physical activities for cardiovascular fitness
• Graduated 26 women from an adult literacy program
• Welcomed a second teacher who will focus on tutoring children in Xela AID’s Educational Scholarship program and who has inaugurated a new adult literacy cohort (March 2011)
History and Additional Detail
Teaming with Luis de León, President of Xela AID Guatemala, Debi Esquivel and Dr. Sheryl Fontaine created a collaboratively-administered tutoring center, El Centro de Estudios. Esquivel and Fontaine (Xela AID Director) are both college educators, well-versed in the creation and sustenance of tutoring centers and the informing research of theorist/practitioners like Paulo Freire, Ken Bruffee, and Shirley Brice Heath.
Funding from several small grants and private donations provided the resources for creating a library of Spanish textbooks, history and culture texts, children and young adult fiction, and much-needed school supplies. Most importantly, El Centro de Estudios employs a tutor, a young woman from the village of San Martin who is a trained educator and fluent and literate in Spanish and Mám, the local Mayan dialect.
Tutoring is available to all children in the village and is intended to help the children thrive academically and socially, to assist in extending the life of an indigenous language, and to provide children with a role model—someone from the village who completed a degree in teaching and is now earning her living through her profession.