We Need To Make Better Happen

While in the final preparation stages for Jump Start Osa, I took a few minutes off to read part of the latest issue of TIME Magazine. Normally I use magazines like TIME to cut out photos and use them during my charlas or English classes. This time I came across something much more striking and it immediately disoriented what I was doing. While flipping through the pages, I stumbled across a full page photo of, Zena Patel, a young lady who works for City Year, an Americorps program. Below her photo, there was a quote she tweeted back in September; the quote reads, “the only thing worse than kids giving up on school, is if we give up on them #makebetterhappen.” I don’t know the exact reason for the quote flustering my thought process, but I do know that this is something that needs to be said more and more to educators across the United States and the world. Growing up where generational poverty was a guarantee, first hand, I have witnessed the impact and power of educational opportunities in high risk areas, like Puerto Jiménez.  

When children don’t have an escape, when children don’t have access to excellent educational programs, they rarely develop the ambition and drive to want to escape poverty and look for hopeful situations. As an educator in Puerto Jiménez, of eight months, something that I have noticed is that many students feel trapped without an escape. Students often drop out of school after 9th grade (the last mandated year), in order to find a low paying job and help support their family. They never develop an educational ambition or lose it in order to work to feed their families.

As an educator, my job isn’t just to ensure that the students learn in class. My job is to ensure that these children understand the implications that education carries throughout the course of their life, especially as someone who came from a similar situation. When I first arrived to Puerto Jiménez, I took it personal when students didn’t want to learn. I took it personal when they hurled insults at me and refused to respect the learning process. I didn’t understand the students. I didn’t understand how I should deal with the situation. I was confused and lost. I consulted former high school teachers in search of advice. Eventually I got the advice that I needed. One former French teacher told me that I should spend time getting to know who I was teaching.

So I got to know the students personally in order to understand who they were and where they were coming from, so that I could teach accordingly. Jimeneños often feel hopeless; they feel trapped in an American-European created tourist area, where they need to speak a foreign language in order to survive. They aren’t bitter, they just want to learn English, but aren’t afforded the proper tools in order to learn. Without English, it is nearly impossible to get a job. This is why Peace Corps is trying to help the Osa Peninsula with English learning. This is why Jump Start Osa, Costa Rica Multilingue, and the US Embassy have partnered to help 15 ambitious students get a jump start with English going into high school. We need to make better happen and never ever give up on students, no matter how hopeless they may feel. We can make it out together and never stop hoping for a better quality life.

Here are a few of the Jump Start students during week one: