Thursday, April 24, 2014

It's Back to School season! 2014-2015

The new school year hasn't quite started yet here in Guayaquil, but we're already getting ready for the new school year here in Guayaquil.  As the students enjoy their last few weeks of vacation, they are also busy getting their new shoes & uniforms.  The "ayudantes" and I have already purchased new backpacks and notebooks for the year.  Both spaces are starting to look more like real classrooms and we even had our first parent & student meeting a couple of weeks ago.  

This year's scholars in Flor de Bastión!
Meet some of our Starfish families - both new and old!  And stay tuned for more exciting updates as we approach the start of classes on Monday, May 5!

Starfish Scholar Juliana, her sister and niece!
Starfish Scholars Anthony, Evelyn and Argenis, with their mom and sister,
and new addition - Domenica, Evelyn's daughter! 
Starfish Scholar Mirka with her mom and sister!
Third-year Starfish Scholar Joel with his mom and younger brother!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Team-Building & Unity at Starfish Vacation Camp

This year, at the request of students and parents alike, Starfish held its first ever "Vacacionales", like sending kids to day camp in the U.S.

Nery, Sofia, Solange and Briggitte enjoy a day in the park in Guasmo.
Building off of the week of activities during the shorter October break, we spent every day for 2 weeks doing new team-building activities, integrating our morning and afternoon groups, cleaning up and decorating our space, increasing our creativity and having lots of fun with various games and sports.  We also had the chance to learn a few new things - like baking cake and cookies, how to make bracelets, how to take care of ourselves, and much more.  Overall, it was two weeks full of fun we wish could go on forever!



In the weeks that followed day camp, we finished up visiting all of the homes of Scholars, new & old, and reviewed all of of the applications for the next school year.  Stay tuned in the coming weeks to meet our new Starfish Scholars for the 2014-2015 school year which begins in 2 short weeks!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Year-End Family Olympics

Last month when school ended here in Guayaquil, we held a day long event that brought both Starfish neighborhoods together for a fun-filled day of fun!

This was a great event as it was the first time parents from both neighborhoods had the chance to meet each other as well!

This year's Olympics started with a sack race, an egg on a spoon race, and an obstacle course based on a popular show in Ecuador, "Calle 7". 

Next, we had our adult soccer tournament followed by the students' tournament.  This year we had 8 teams - made up of both students and their families.  

The black team and the light blue team met in the championship game, where the light blue team, "Los Sky Blue" won in penalties.

At the end of the tournament, we also had a chance to celebrate all of our scholars and tutoring students.  We recognized all of their hard work with a certificate noting excellence in one or all of the four categories measured by our Battle Star Chart - Grades, Behavior, Community Service and Attendance.  

We also selected two overall winners in each neighborhood.  These girls had the highest overall total of stars on the chart, plus excellence in all 4 categories.  Congratulations to two of our youngest scholars, 12 year old Briggitte from Guasmo and 13 year old Arelisa from Flor de Bastión.  (Fun fact: Arelisa is a repeat winner in Flor and last year Briggitte's older brother Steve won in Guasmo!)  

Thursday, April 3, 2014


This past month, I had the opportunity to attend two high school graduations.  What made these events even more special is that Betsabeth and Maria are our first ever Starfish graduates!  

Getting ready to enter the auditorium.
At Starfish, our mission is to be a premier means for at-risk Ecuadorian youth to achieve a post-secondary education.  

We are so proud of Betsabeth and Maria for completing the first big step towards achieving that.  With their high school graduation many doors will open to them.

Betsabeth with her proud parents on graduation day!  Check out that degree :)
While graduation is always a special day, I can say without a doubt that Maria and Betsabeth deserve an extra special round of applause for their efforts.  In Ecuador, only 60% of youth enter high school, and that number declines steadily throughout the 6 years that is secondary education.  Youth are forced to find a job and drop out of school, or they get married and have children at a young age.  These are just two examples of the reality of daily life in a developing countries, especially in the marginalized communities of Guasmo and Flor de Bastión.

Apart from overcoming those circumstances, Maria and Betsabeth have been a great example for the other Starfish Scholars.  Both were very responsible with their studies all year, always coming to study and to ask questions when need be.  They will continue to be great role models for our Scholars as they become our first Starfish grads to stay on as "Ayudantes" or employees in our Tutoring program!

Here Betsabeth and Maria receive a gift from Starfish for all of their hard work!
Aside from that, both young women plan to attend university.  Maria hopes to follow in her older sister's steps and attend the State University of Guayaquil.  There she hopes to study pediatrics.  Betsabeth hopes to be the first in her family to attend University.  She is looking to study nursing.  Both girls had to take the entrance exam this past Saturday for public universities.  This exam, while similar in content to the SAT, also determines which major you are allowed to choose in college. Mucha suerte to our Starfish grads as they await the results!

Maria with her mom and older sister, Jennifer.