From Maggie Washa: I am excited to announce the newest new student joining our scholarship program. His name is Gibran and he will be starting at the Universidad del Sur in Cancun this August/Sept. It has been his dream for many years to go to University and after exploring several ideas, has decided to get a degree in Hospitality Administration, a degree offered to those wishing to be in the tourist industry. Gibran is already fluent in English, having studied it at every opportunity since he was very young. He graduated from high school a year ago, and has not wasted any time since then. Over the winter he took a course through the Red Cross and is now an EMT (emergency medical technician). He worked full time at Garrafón as a waiter and at Dolphin Discovery. It is there that he enjoyed improving his English skills, but also took the opportunity to pick up any vocabulary in other languages as well. He says he loves practicing Portuguese and Mandarin Chinese! He lives with his parents, sister and nephew in a small home in the Guadalupana. His mother and sister run a small day care center on Isla, and his father is a cook at Garrafón Park. Gibran is now 19 years old. He has worked and saved for the last year to pay for his registration and admission, but will need help with his monthly tuition payments and daily commute to Cancun. Here is a quote from his letter asking for the scholarship: "English has given me the opportunity to interact with people of many nationalities, it is very interesting to know other cultures. The degree that I am interested in now is Hospitality Management, and one of my biggest dreams is to hold my university degree in my hands. I have always cared about the people of my community and the island. When I was young, I volunteered for a foundation called PEACE and I was also part of the Green Patrol (a youth group dedicated to environmental preservation). Both groups were concerned about the welfare of Isla Mujeres. With the knowledge that the degree will give me I will be able to do projects so that the culture and traditions of the island are not lost. You have come into my life to help make my dreams a reality. Maybe some time ago I would not have believed this opportunity would come, but in my mind I have always had this phrase "Never let small minds make you believe that your dreams are too big for you." I will not disappoint you, I thank God for putting you into my life, I also thank you for helping me to make my dreams come true." We are looking for a good handful of sponsors to make up this new "Team Gibran" (pronounced heeBRAHN). I can guarantee that you will love this young man, for his enthusiasm, intelligence and very strong motivation to succeed. He will continue to live on Isla Mujeres and communicates very well in English, so it will be easy to get to know him and his very supportive family.
Monday morning several sponsors of The Brothers Cleyder and Miguel met with them and their Mother for breakfast at Lola Valentina. It was great to see the Brothers and interact with fellow sponsors. Two brand new sponsors were in attendance. We had a very nice visit and I encourage all sponsors to try to meet with their scholarship students.
The Isla Mujeres Sponsorship Program is so much more than just writing a monthly check. It truly is about the students and sponsors becoming part of each others lives!
How and when did you first hear about the scholarship program? John had volunteered as a teaching assistant at Maggie Washa’s La Gloria English School for two years. He got to know some of the student participants in the program. When the school closed, we wanted to continue our support for students on the island and this was a perfect solution.
Why did you decide to become a sponsor? We love the island and it’s people and feel like residents (part time at least). We feel responsible to give back to make people’s lives better and education is such as huge part of that. We know these island kids could not afford tuition and living expenses. The Isla Scholarship Group brings together caring, committed folks and helps maximize their impact. Team captains and “treasurers” for each student anticipate their needs and help assure those needs are met, even unforeseen ones. These dedicated individuals volunteer many hours to coordinate finances and we are forever in their debt.
How many students have you sponsored? If only one, who is the student? We help sponsor three students—Yazmin, The Brothers Cleyder and Miguel.
Have you met your student while you were visiting Isla Mujeres? Yes! Every year we make it a point to meet our students and their families for lunch in order to stay connected and let them know that we are supporting them. Since Yazmin lives and works on the island, we see her at her mother’s shop as well. Anything else you would like to add about the scholarship program? This has been such a rewarding endeavor. To know what a positive impact we’re having on these young people’s lives, to experience their gratitude, and to know how committed they are to improving their lives and those of their families is truly humbling.
Below are Maggie, Lissa, John, Yazmin, her mother and younger sister
How and when did you first hear about the scholarship program? Through Facebook and current friends living on Isla currently sponsoring students.
Why did you decide to become a sponsor? Wanted to contribute to this cause & helping a child with education they would not otherwise be able to afford & we consider it part of our paying it forward mission in life.
How many students have you sponsored? If only one, who is the student? 1 at the moment Team Esperanza. Esperanza is new to the program and is attending high school on Isla.
Have you met your student while you were visiting Isla Mujeres Yes, recently we visited her July 24 and met with her mother also with our awesome translator Yazmin. We went to lunch together, sharing a great conversation about the program and our families, exchanged gifts and made an agreement to teach each other English/Spanish over the next few months. When we meet again in January the deal is to speak to each other in Spanish only with no help of a translator
Anything else you would like to add about the scholarship program? We think it's wonderful and look forward to building a healthy relationship with our student and her family. Look for into watching her progress, and she plans to pursue medical school over the next few years--how awesome is that??
Below are Esperanza's mother, Kari, Esperanza, fellow sponsor Yazmin as the translator
How and when did you first hear about the scholarship program? I learned of the scholarship program in its earliest days and thought it was a wonderful idea.
Why did you decide to become a sponsor? Eventually, a student named Marbella caught my attention. She was married with two children, an older student who wanted to further her education and improve her family's well-being. I recognized a bit of myself in Marbella, as I also returned to college here in the U.S. to finish my degree when I was in my late 20s - a decision that changed my life for the WAY better. Marbella's team was phenomenal: not only did we cover her tuition, we also helped her buy a computer, deal with a few emergencies, and eventually contributed to help build her family a modest home on the island.
Have you met your student while you were visiting Isla Mujeres? I met Marbella in 2010 and visited with her at La Gloria English School, where she was then employed. Not long ago, I saw a scholarship program post about a young woman named Yuseli. I was intrigued with her essay about why she wanted to continue her education and thereby encourage her younger siblings to do the same, so I signed on to sponsor her. I haven't met Yuseli yet, but I hope to one day.
The financial aspects - and many promotional activities - of this program are managed by a dear friend I met on Isla, Jana Epperson, so I know my money is going exactly where it is needed. Many other friends I've made on the island are sponsors, too, including Jackie, who began this blog. If you love Isla Mujeres, I can't think of a finer way to give back to this beautiful little island.
Yazmin, Thanks for taking the time to share your sponsorship experience with our blog audience.
How and when did you first hear about the scholarship program? Hola! I heard about the program in 2014, maybe through Facebook.
Why did you decide to become a sponsor? I decided to become a sponsor as I love the idea of these young people wanting to do something else with their lives and not just stay here and be fishermen or kitchen workers as the family may have been doing for generations. The fact that they are motivated to go to college is already super pro-active so I thought I would keep supporting and motivating these kids to not stop until they reach their dreams! I like to let my students know that I'm available to talk or give some advice when needed always!
How many students have you sponsored? If only one, who is the student? My first student was Arley who graduated from law school.
Have you met your student? As a full time resident of Isla Mujeres I see Arley around from time to time and we catch up quickly. Last thing I heard she's finally working in the ministerio público here on Isla and that made me super happy as the time I saw her before she was working at the Senor Frogs store and I was like "wth r u doing here??" She said it was hard to get a job with no experience. We talked for a while and I encouraged her to study English and keep on trying and sending resumes and going to interviews or whatever it took to work in law! She worked hard enough to get that diploma not to just to leave it hanging in her house on the wall! I was really excited to know she's now working in her field!
My current students are the brothers Cleyder and Miguel who attend university in Mérida. I haven't met the brothers yet. I'm looking forward being able to talk to them and get to know them a bit more!
I love this program, I hope it keeps on growing and expanding and then maybe more students can join. Of course proving they have good grades and all. I think the socioeconomic status of the family shouldn't be that important as long as we can see the student has good grades and determination! There's many kids that do have the good grades but don't even know there's a whole world of possibilities for them to do. There's all this kids with really bad grades that wish they could afford to go to college. I just wish I could help all the ones who really want it!
In the left photo are Cleyder and Miguel with their mother. On the right that is Arley's mother, Arley and Yazmin.
Thank you Christine for sharing your experience as a sponsor with us.
How and when did you first hear about the Isla Mujeres Scholarship group? I first heard about the program in 2014 from my good friend Jana Epperson. She has been going to Isla for about 20 years and always spoke highly of the good work the program does.
Why did you decide to become a sponsor? I decided to become a sponsor after visiting for the first time in 2015. I was able to spend time with several of the volunteers and hear firsthand the impact the scholarship fund has for the students. We are fortunate in the US that college education has become something we simply expect to have access to, so it was both inspiring and humbling to realize how hard these young adults have to work to make that a reality where they live. How many students have you sponsored? If only one, who is the student? I sponsor one student, Fabiola (Fabi). I asked to join her team because she is studying Criminal Justice, which is what my daughter received her degree in in 2012. Again, I thought about my daughter’s college experience and the relative ease she had navigating the process compared to the obstacles Fabi faces.
Have you met your student while you were visiting Isla Mujeres? I did get to meet Fabi, which was such a joy! I actually met Fabi and her mom at the scholarship party held at Maggie Washa’s last year in Isla. It was truly a wonderful experience to hear past and current students speak about what the program has meant to them. Without exception, every student spoke about their gratefulness to the sponsors. There was also a true and deserved sense of pride in their voices – for current students when they talked about their academic accomplishments, for graduates when they shared their new career paths. Two things stick out about that day as poignant and extraordinary - first, the mentoring role that seemed genuinely organic between the graduates and current students. Secondly, when I was speaking to Fabi’s mom (with Fabi translating), I told her how as a mom I could relate to her pride as my daughter was the first in our entire extended family to graduate college. Fabi began to translate, then paused and said, “actually my sister also went through the program and already graduated so I’m the second who will graduate.” I was simultaneously humbled and delighted by the pride in both their eyes.
I think there are many worthwhile causes to contribute to, but I’ve not seen any that can match the impact and reach that this one, especially for such a relatively small monthly investment. And it truly is an investment. On that note, I’m hopeful I will be bringing on a new sponsor by the end of the summer!
Often a long term bond forms when a sponsor meets the student that they are supporting. Alejandra was our first university student who I started sponsoring in March 2008. She tags me in Facebook posts about what she is doing and in photos of her son so I can see how he is growing. I love that Alejandra still shares her life with me all these years later.
David is another student that I sponsored who still contacts me. We meet up every time that I am on Isla. Many sponsors have attended their student's graduation ceremonies, weddings and family birthday parties. Students become like family members and they are very appreciative of the help they have received from their sponsors. The students often refer to their sponsors as Godparents.
Recently sponsors Marie and Nick were honored to attend a family event with David who is a former scholarship student.
Marie posted "Being part of this program gives you unexpected opportunities, like being invited to the civil 'registration' of your former student's baby. Love it! Thanks to David (and Sirly) for including us. It was an interesting slice of life. I cherish my relationship with him."