With your help we were able to bring this type of education to a special group of scholarship students for the 2018-2020 school years, and now we are looking ahead to the 2021 school year which begins in February. Due to the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have more students in our community than ever before who need scholarships. We want to make sure that these wonderful kids, who have become an integral part of our community the past three years, can continue with Escuela Ceiba. That is why we are opening up the Escuela Ceiba Scholarship Fund again and asking for your support.
ESCUELA CEIBA’S JOURNEY - A STORY OF RESILIENCE
2021 will mark the beginning of Escuela Ceiba’s fifth school year. What a journey it has been since that first meeting we hosted in our garage in March of 2016. A bit of a rollercoaster ride, really. In only four years as a school, we have lived through two major crises!
2018, our second year of existence, brought a severe political crisis to Nicaragua, taking a huge toll on our school community as we lost about half of our families and several staff members. We managed to finish out the school year (thanks to donations from many of you!), but ended the year in a much worse state than we had started out - needing to rebuild our community and our staff, adjust our financial projections to the new reality of a poorer economy, and get our school back on track for growth.
In 2019, we rebuilt. We started up our robotics program, as well as extra-curricular English classes, summer camps during school vacations, and community events such as a children’s puppet theater, movie night and a Zumbathon. Our robotics club participated in the national Robotics Olympiad for the first time, and won all three places.
It was a banner year - really our first smooth, normal year in our own space - and we were looking forward to continuing that momentum into the next year.
YEAR OF THE PANDEMIC
And then… 2020 happened! We were only a month and a half into our school year here when the pandemic hit and we had to close the school and “pivot” (a true 2020 buzzword!) to figure out online learning.
Once again, our resilience was put to the test. Thankfully, we passed that test, and I’m really proud of all that we accomplished. We spent five months with remote learning. Though not ideal for the young learners that we have, the teachers did a great job of creating dynamic content and keeping connections alive by holding regular calls with one or two kids at a time. We got our school set up with Google Education and arranged an intensive training at the beginning of the pandemic for all our teachers.
In mid-September, once the local conditions made it possible, we came back to school in person, using a hybrid model. We put together a comprehensive re-opening plan, which included installing new hand-washing stations and a water tank (to make sure we always had running water, since the water occasionally goes out here), following all the safety protocols, alternating days between class groups and continuing the fully online option for families who were not ready to go back yet.
Escuela Ceiba’s small student population (only 35 kids at the time of the pandemic) and small class sizes (which are very unusual for León - most schools here fit our entire student population into a classroom) made the return to school possible. Though our small size was an important advantage for allowing in-person classes during these times, it was also what made this time very challenging for us financially.
The pandemic's effect on the economy hit us hard - first, by affecting people's income, meaning some families could not continue paying tuition, and second, by forcing us to cancel our extracurricular robotics and English classes, which were a key source of income for us. A double whammy! We hustled to figure out how to make ends meet - negotiating down some expenses, approaching donors for extra support and finding new ways to save - so that we could continue to serve our students and keep our school alive.
It was not easy and often stressful, but we made it to the end of our fourth school year in one piece! This accomplishment deserved celebration.
In what is becoming an Escuela Ceiba tradition, we ended the year with a special outing with families to release endangered baby turtles into the sea. The act of conserving and releasing these little turtles is very symbolic for Escuela Ceiba. It represents not only an important value for our school community - that of taking care of our environment - but also our work as a school - taking care of our little people, teaching them what they need to live well, guiding them and then setting them free into the world.
And, since it coincides with the end of our school year, this activity is also a farewell. We said goodbye to the turtles and at the same time, to the year 2020! We released the turtles at the same time as we released our pent-up, mixed-up energies from this past year. Hoping, together, that 2021 will be a year of good health, good spirits and community.
In 2021, we aim to keep on growing and pick up where we left off when the pandemic hit. We will offer preschool through fourth grade of primary school, continuing with our goal of opening an additional grade each year. We will also offer English and robotics courses, and hope to open up some other extra-curricular activities as well.
We hope you will continue on this journey with us, and we thank you for your support.
My name is Abby Augusta, I have lived in León, Nicaragua for 11 years, and am one of the co-founders of Escuela Ceiba. I am currently President of the Board of Escuela Ceiba, and my children attend this school. The funds donated to this campaign will be used to cover a combination of full scholarships and partial scholarships for the 2021 school year for the children who need it. The scholarships cover the cost of tuition, materials and transportation costs for each student. The funds raised from this campaign will be sent to my personal bank account in the U.S., from where I will transfer them to Escuela Ceiba's bank account in Nicaragua. I am happy to provide more detailed information on the withdrawal process for anyone who is interested.
- Eric Augusta
- Cecilia Blasco
- Mariana Martinez
- Mary Lawrence Gallagher
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