Naranjo de Laurel is a community of around 850 people close to the border of Panama. The town’s economy is based on the processing of palm oil. Community members see a high school diploma as a key to greater work opportunities. They especially value the high school because it is new, having opened in 2007. Since travel to other schools was difficult before then, many of the parents of the current high school students did not attend high school.
While these new educational opportunities exist for youth in Naranjo, many are not prepared for the social and academic challenges of high school, and drop out. Two thirds of the students who started at the Naranjo High School are not graduating from this school. Many students specifically cite challenges with their English classes. Another difficulty is that the majority of students in the high school come from small rural communities. They struggle transitioning to a high school of 500 students – 10 times the size of many nearby elementary schools.
Now in its second year, Jumpstart Naranjo 2015 will include students from three local elementary schools. The majority of the students come from small schools and never studied English before. This means they are at a disadvantage compared with their peers in high school who have received English classes since first grade.
Students, parents and teachers are highly interested in this intensive English camp. They understand how challenging the transition to high school can be, and they are motivated to participate in a program that will support the students.
Families at the information session in Bella Luz. Two parents talked about how they struggled with English classes in high school. They felt like they didn’t understand what the teacher was saying, and they felt embarrassed. They said they wanted things to be different for their kids.