What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question parents and educators ask children in the United States quite often. It primes and ignites a child’s imagination, conjuring up crayon drawings of police officers, engineers, firefighters, doctors, teachers, and astronauts. It is this question that leads a child’s curiosity into discovery. It’s a question we ask to help inspire and encourage. We pat them on the back, smile, and tell them they can be whatever they want to be . . . if they try hard enough, never give up, and get good grades in school. A child’s world in the United States seems endless, full of choices, like a store full of shiny new toys waiting to be picked.
However, the juxtaposition of opportunity in the United States and acceptance in rural Nicaragua is striking. In the small village of El Tránsito, children routinely drop out of school by the 6th grade, with students often leaving school not knowing how to read, write, or do basic math. They grow up to be one of two things: a fisherman or a housewife. It’s their way of life, their routine, so asking children in rural Nicaragua what they want to be when they grow up seems far less inspirational. But this is changing.
With the help of an educational program known as CREA (Create, Reinforce, Educate, and Advance), interactive learning technology (Istation) is paving the way for a new generation in rural Nicaragua. I recently had the opportunity to visit the village of El Tránsito in May. I was invited by Terri Marlett, NICA Executive Director, to witness firsthand how a team of educators and staff are helping transform a community. Within 12 months, her team secured funding and built the infrastructure that allows rural students to access Wi-Fi, computers, and iPads in their school.
This is common of course in the United States, but in rural Nicaragua, it is unique. Before this, these children had never even seen a computer. In fact, the children were afraid to touch them when they first arrived. In a village with no flushing toilets, air conditioning, or consistent running water, teachers at Douglas Vasquez Elementary were able to engage students with modern technology for the very first time. The objective of my visit was to conduct a series of interviews with educators, students, and parents. Over the course of four days, I witnessed something incredibly special: I saw students who no longer had to face a future without opportunity. Hope had found them.
Over the next few weeks, we'll continue to share this town's story. Stay tuned for Part 2!