Meet the Scholarship students

By Jennifer Ruppelt

Last December, I began a project that I’ve come to call, “The Interviews”. The project entails interviewing the 205 scholarship students at the Cultural Center. A profile is created for each student, which is then sent to their unique donor.

The students are divided into two categories- Internal and External.  Internal scholarships are given to children, youth, and adults to study a course within the Cultural Center. The scholarship covers the student’s monthly fees and, in some cases, their class supplies as well. The external scholarships support students from Batahola Norte and the surrounding neighborhoods to continue studying their elementary, secondary, or university education. Students use the scholarship to help pay for their uniform, school supplies, and transportation costs.

As a one-year volunteer with the Mennonite Central Committee, “The Interviews” have created an excellent excuse to meet each scholarship student. It has been my privilege to hear a small part of each student’s story­­- why they came to the Cultural Center, how they’ve changed, and what their hopes and dreams are for the future.

Some of the most striking interviews have been with students from the Adult Basic Education classes. The students, who were unable to attend or finish elementary school, take night classes for three years to obtain their primary school equivalency certification.

Here are the profiles for a few of these students…


Name:  Justo Germán Balmaceda Rojas

Age:  54

Favorite Activities: I like to take walks and watch baseball.

Class: Adult Basic Education, Level III

A Little Information About Me:   I am married and have three daughters. My oldest daughters are married and my youngest daughter lives at home. I grew up in a poor family with 14 siblings. Instead of studying at a young age, I had to work to help support the family. Later on I learned to drive and I have worked as a taxi driver for the past 25 years. My wife studied finished Adult Basic Education here at the Cultural Center and she encouraged me to study as well. I started in Level I, learning to read and write.

I am in the Scholarship Program because:  I would like to continue studying to be an electrician. I would also like to learn English so that I can communicate with English-speaking passengers when I drive taxi. Now that I have studied Adult Basic Education, I feel that I can take a new step forward in my life.

Name: María del Socorro Pérez

Age:  63

Favorite Activities: I like to participate in neighborhood organization meetings.

Class: Adult Basic Education, Level II

A Little Information About Me:  I live with my four adult children, son-in-law, and four grandchildren. My son and son-in-law work in a paint store. I work as a house cleaner. In my free time I visit my friends who are sick and attend political meetings in my neighborhood.

I am in the Scholarship Program because: When I came to the Cultural Center I didn’t know how to read or write. It is important for women to study because otherwise, we are essentially blind. Even though I am older, I want to stretch my mind and learn what I couldn’t learn when I was younger. My goal is to finish the three levels of Adult Basic Education.

Name:  Flor Azucena Flores

Age:  50

Favorite Activities: I like to spend time with my mother because she is older and needs lots of extra care.

Neighborhood: Batahola Norte

Class: Adult Basic Education, Level II

A Little Information About Me: I am married and have three adult children, two daughters and one son. My daughter-in-law also lives with us. My husband works as a security guard and I stay at home. Sometimes I take in small sewing jobs.

I am in the Scholarship Program because: When I was young my parents weren’t able to send me to school. They picked coffee and traveled to follow the harvest. Even though I am older now, I want to take advantage of this opportunity to study at the Cultural Center. After I finish Adult Basic Education, I’d like to study sewing or cake making. My goal is to have a small business out of my home and generate an income for my family. I feel proud to study and discover that I can succeed.



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