Scholarships Are Not Just for College
Over the next few weeks, as the school year here in Guatemala comes to an end, many families and their pre-teen youth will make a decision with lasting impact on the youth’s future: Will he or she continue to go to school past the sixth grade? And the single largest factor which will govern that decision is likely to be financial.
As Guatemalan youth move from primary to junior high school and then again from junior to senior high, costs escalate. While a year of primary school is minimal and affordable for most families, the $500 junior high costs are not, and the $800 for senior even less so. So, the decision to continue with education or to drop out is one that has to be made not just as the youth leave sixth grade but every year after that, as well.
What difference does it make? Guatemalans with a junior high school education earn an average of 15 percent more every year than those who only completed primary school. Those who finish high school earn an additional 15 percent more than those with only a junior high education. Without the means to pay for the higher levels of education, children from poor families are shut out of the opportunities for these higher levels of income.
That’s why Open Windows has a scholarship fund. During the first week of December, sixth grade youth attending the learning center for reinforcement sessions after the school year has ended will take tests to determine who will receive the available scholarship money. We would, of course, like to offer a scholarship to every student leaving sixth grade because we think taking the step into junior high is critical for every child. But the number of youth we can support is ultimately determined by our donors.
It’s that time of year: a time for giving and a time for decision-making. The giving can change the decisions that get made – and that will change the future.