The Power of Education
“Imagine a world without education, a society without a history, a book without words.”
Profound words from a very inspiring young lady. Mishell, a 6th grader at UPAVIM, has been taking Villa Nueva and beyond by storm with her passionate, courageous speech about the power of education. In March, Villa Nueva challenged students from 6-12 grade to write a speech about “Education and Society.” In the first round, Mishell competed against other 6th graders, and won first place! This sent her to the finals, where she was judged against two other first place winners from 7th and 8th grades.
The entire UPAVIM school, students and teachers, packed up in a bus to cheer on Mishell. We were the loudest supporters in attendance with our drums, a dancing stilts-man, balloons that every student waved in the air, and all our prideful whoops and hollers. Mishell effortlessly delivered her speech with grace and grit, easily winning first place again.
In May, another opportunity arose for Mishell to share her powerful ideas outside of our school district. The English program has begun building partnerships with other schools and programs. We have worked closely with a school in Jocotenengo that, coincidentally, has the same name as our community – Proyecto Esperanza. During one meeting, Mishell’s speech worked its way into the conversation, and she was invited to be a guest speaker at a school-wide assembly.
The journey to Jocotenengo was such a special and beautiful day for Mishell. It was her first time out of the city, and she was amazed and in awe of all the changes in scenery and the different rhythm of life. We were able to spend some time in a beautiful finca surrounded by horses and greenery, while her grandma shared memories of growing up in the highlands. Mishell bravely gave her speech to the K-12 school without missing a beat, and they responded with a standing ovation.
The 6th graders at Proyecto Esperana were very inspired by her, and asked her to spend time in their classroom. They were so curious about her, and asked questions ranging from her process of staying calm while giving speeches and what her future dreams are, to what life is like in the community where we live and if she has crushes on any boys. The seemingly simple one-hour journey outside our community had a hugely profound impact on Mishell and the students she inspired that day.
Mishell’s inspiration didn’t stop there. In June, the English program had a training for new volunteers and teachers, and Mishell kicked off the week of orientation by giving her speech and talking with us about her ideas on school. It was a great way to start the important, challenging work we do as teachers here.
Mishell’s fearless speech shows us the powerful potential for change – for activists, dreamers and shakers – that already exist in our community. When families and teachers are able to empower youth by giving them safe spaces to learn, challenging them to use their critical consciousness, and encouraging them to share their ideas – the ripples of change will start, poco a poco.
If you want to watch Mishell’s speech, visit the link below.