Compassionate Impact Grant – New Generation Educators will unlock a Girl Pioneers Power


When choosing a beneficiary for our Compassionate Impact Grant, we do look at the entire organization, but we also ask our applicants to submit a proposal for a specific program. Starfish, our current CIG beneficiary, introduced us to its Girl Effect program, which is supplying mentors and promoting initiatives to secure education for those in extreme poverty.

The program that we are supporting with our grant to Starfish is a teacher training and development system they are pioneering for teachers in their new middle school. They will be selecting and onboarding 40 girls starting in January 2016 while providing them with weekly mentorship and regular family visits. The Guatemalan school year starts in January, so the girls will formally begin 7th grade in early 2017

Guatemala is known for having free public schools; however, it is also known that the schools vary widely in quality and that there are many barriers to attendance, such as the cost of uniforms, supplies and transportation. In the developed world this may be an annoyance, but in Guatemala, often the uniform must be purchased from one dealer in one location, and the exact supplies are required – not something that is close enough. Furthermore, there is a culture that girls receive only a primary education.

Travis Ning, executive director of Starfish, explains existing issues with the Guatemalan school structure. According to the Guatemalan population council, rural indigenous girls living in extreme poverty only access 7th grade at a rate of 3% to 5%. The rate of completion is less. Even fewer access grades 10-12. In grades 10-12 in Guatemala, you have to “major” – options for majoring for girls are often teaching, bookkeeping or secretarial work. This locks girls into single-track career options.

Starfish_2012_KL-218 So Starfish found that even their star students were coming out of primary and junior high school unprepared for many career options, even with the education and mentoring support they were supplying, not because Starfish was not empowering the Girl Effect for the Pioneer participants, but because they were trapped in an education system that was not designed for upward growth.

Since our Compassionate Impact Grant was designed to provide a tremendous amount of teacher enrichment and training, I was looking for answers to what a “certified teacher” was in Guatemala. Up until a couple of years ago, all you needed to be a teacher was a 12th-grade diploma in teaching. The Guatemalan government recognized that more needed to be done and implemented a three-year “community college” model of further training. Herein lies another problem: What happens to the poor girls working so hard to get their certificate in 12th grade, only to have the system change on them? Not only is it disappointing, but it creates additional obstacles for future employment because the extended training locations were not always local.

Starfish believes that empowerment comes with education. Their new foray into education is an intense private junior high school for Starfish Girl Pioneers, with specific academic promise. Good education comes with remarkable teachers. Starfish is supplementing the traditional Guatemalan training courses with significant additional training. It is this training, which is already being provided, that Foundation Beyond Belief is partially funding.

The program design centers around the Fab 5 – the first five educators (educators, not teachers) have spent two years in professional development. Travis says, “The challenge is to redefine it, asking [the educators] to do something they have never seen.”

These educators will not only instruct the students, but also provide professional development to new teachers added to the staff.

Since great teachers provide additional opportunities, the Starfish Impact school will open this fall with 40 seventh-grade Girl Pioneers. Their education will be extensive, with the school day twice the length of a typical Guatemalan school day. Starfish’s goal is 15 years of formal schooling, asking the students to remain a single woman until at least age 26, and aiming them to reach an earning power of approximately $3,000, the average income in Guatemala.

Foundation Beyond Belief is thrilled to be able to fund this remarkable teacher training program for the Starfish Impact School.

More information about the training modules:

  • Christa Jimenez is providing guidance on dynamic instruction. For teachers trained in static, rote education models, the educators need to be trained to be prepared in the execution and coaching a new teaching model

  • WINGS is a training program in Guatemala that raises awareness of sexual dynamics in the community and strategies to inform students and teachers how to keep students safe in school and in life.

  • Internal Training on Individual versus societal awareness. Who is the Self versus what is the doctrine? How do educators and students use critical thinking, and what lens is it used for. Working in cooperation with the University of Colorado Theater School and a doctoral student and New York University

  • Technological Integration in schools. Starfish is evaluating the best models available that systematically combine the Guatemalan standard curriculum with technological blended learning platforms.

  • CorpX in Mexico is providing additional training in coaching and mentoring to engage students to staff.

  • An exciting new partnership is with the Girls Athletic Leadership School (GALS) USA. We will be exchanging best-practices with this all-girl charter school network.

For more information on FBB's partnership with Starfish, please check out our Starfish spotlight video.