My love of Guatemala was sparked when I was a child. When I was a toddler, my parents and my uncle decided to travel to Guatemala to volunteer at an orphanage. My favorite story has always been my uncle singing “La cucaracha” while painting the orphanage, followed by the nuns laughing at him. Because he had no idea what the song meant, he just continued to sing the only Spanish song he knew. However, Guatemala had a lasting impression on him, and he continued to travel to Guatemala and study Spanish, sparking my interest in the culture and language. I began to take Spanish classes in school and between my sophomore and junior years of high school, and I decided to visit the Guatemala. My uncle arranged a four-week trip to La Antigua, during which I took Spanish classes and volunteered at El Semillero de Mi Ángel Guardián, a program designed to help children from low-income families with their homework and nutritional needs. After the four weeks, I knew Guatemala would always be a part of me. In 2012, I returned to volunteer at the same project. My experiences in Guatemala have shaped who I am and I would be honored to give back to the people who have changed my life.
Ironically, I never thought I wanted to teach. Yet, teaching seems to be calling me. Before I graduated high school, I was already working in a school district as an employee tutoring migrant children in class subjects and putting together English lesson plans to help the students understand and communicate better in English. Since, I have spent my time tutoring Spanish-speaking children through programs such as Migrant Legal Aid and the local Hispanic Center, where I also assisted with the adult ESL program. Additionally, I spent seven months teaching Spanish to children ranging from ages six weeks to six years. Now, I will graduate from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology, with an emphasis in linguistic and cultural studies, and a minor in Spanish.
Throughout my experiences, I have observed that every student has a different approach to learning. I have seen the benefits of pairing fun with education in active and collaborative learning and plan to employ methods such as breaking students into groups, reading aloud, and games including spelling competitions, Jeopardy, and rearranging words into sentences. This approach is effective because the students have to form sentences and use the tools with which they have been taught to communicate while practicing with and encouraging one another.
Looking back on my time spent at El Semillero de Mi Ángel Guardián, I am reminded of the importance of things that, before my time there, did not seem important. For example, I remember most is watching the children’s faces light up as they received new toothbrushes, as volunteers played games with them, and as they learned how to care for a garden. With an ETA, I would like to continue to volunteer with this project, or find a similar program in the community in which I will be placed. This program encourages children to learn, teaches them responsibility, and keeps the children interested in academics and extracurricular activities, while providing the children with nutritional sustenance they may not otherwise receive, and I know that I will return and continue to work with this project even after the program officially ends.
Although the tie between Guatemala and myself has already been formed, an ETA will provide a foundation for my future goals. I plan to continue to teach; however, not in the conventional way. Instead, I plan to apply to Teach for America and continue to educate others about underserved populations. Hopefully, my goals, and an ETA, will allow me to be the kind of inspiration to others that my uncle was for me.