Jennifer, Maguire Fellow in Guatemala

Jennifer is a senior majoring in human rights and public policy. She was awarded a Maguire and Irby Family Foundation Public Service Fellowship for summer 2015 from the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at SMU for her work in community development.

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Project Background

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In 2012 Dr. Héctor Rivera and the SMU Center for Child and Community Development made their first trip to Guatemala for their Global Educator Project. This project manifested itself as a summer immersion program that provides educators from the Dallas, Texas area, and those from Sacatepéquez, Guatemala, an opportunity to share a cultural, linguistic, and professional exchange. To this day the Center for Child and Community Development has created partnerships with four schools in Guatemala: Colegio Boston, Escuela Proyecto La Esperanza, Luis Mena, and La Escuela Oficial Urbana de Niñas Leonor Rosales vda de Ramirez.

In 2013 Raul Magdaleno, an SMU alum and recipient of the U.S. Congressional Award Gold Medal, teamed up with Dr. Rivera to add a component to this already successful program. Magdaleno, with his non-profit the Magdaleno Leadership Institute, decided to provide a one-week leadership institute to the girls of the indigenous community of Santa Maria de Jesus.

This leadership institute is designed to empower young women to become the solutions to various issues that plague their community such as extreme poverty, illiteracy and sexism. The institute consists of a rigorous leadership training, during which the students are asked to create a proposal to tackle an issue in their community. Each project proposal is then presented to a panel of judges that decides which project will be sponsored the upcoming year.

The First Leadership Institute Group (Guatemalan 2013)

The First Leadership Institute Group (Guatemalan 2013). Raul Magdelano is on the top row left, wearing a sweater vest.

In 2014, the second year for the leadership institute, a group of three young women had the winning proposal, “Explotando Mentes Brillantes”, which focused on the level of illiteracy in the community. They planned to tackle the issue by providing an after school program that would allow the children who cannot attend school in the mornings an opportunity to an education. In the coordination of the project the young ladies came to the realization that there did not exist an adequate place in their community where its members could have access to free books or Internet access.

An existing community municipal public library was in such disarray, and dangerous due to dilapidated conditions, that children were prohibited from spending time in the library.

Outside view of the Municipal Public Library before the renovation

Outside view of the Municipal Public Library before the renovation

The condition of the library and the possible effects that this situation could have on the literacy rate of the community led these young women to team up with three other participants of the leadership institute to take on the renovation of the public municipal library.

Dangerous Conditions in the library included holes on the walls....

Dangerous Conditions in the library included holes on the walls….

...ceiling falling apart

…ceiling falling apart

...and loose electrical wiring

…and loose electrical wiring

These young women have had a year full of obstacles in the execution of this project due to red tape that surrounds the library. However, in spite of all the obstacles, these young women have persevered, and their determination has allowed for this project to move forward. They have traveled throughout Guatemala to speak to Guatemalan government officials, as well as various universities to acquire support for this project.

Due to all their hard work we are proud to announce that the reopening of the Municipal Public Library is now scheduled for July 18.

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