New Format for La California

ACT 1: La Sele

Costa Rica’s national soccer team just qualified to go to the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. The team is called “la seleción” (or “sele” for short) because they are the “selected ones”. Of all the soccer players in the country, they were asked to play on the national team.  We have made our own “sele” with kids from La California.

Here’s the vision: If we can give a few select kids from La California intensive English tutoring over the next year and a half, then maybe we will be able to bring a few of them to La Palabra de Vida as scholarship students for High School. Students come to two 1-hour sessions her week and do extra homework. The tutoring is lead by me, James, with the help of some 10th grade volunteers from La Palabra de Vida.

This week, we had our first small group tutoring sessions. 8 5th graders came, and we got a better idea of how much English they have at this point. These kids have had 5 years of English classes, but they struggled to answer the most basic questions like: “Where do you live?” and “What is your dog’s name?”

If one of these students could graduate from our school, it would have a profound impact on them, their families, and their community. With a bilingual high school degree, they would be able to get the highest paying job in the country available to someone with only a high school diploma: answering customer service calls at a call center. With that job, they could double their current household income. Palabra de Vida has seen this before. We have had scholarship students who become their family’s primary earner by age 19.

The community surrounding La California needs to see that kind of success story.

On Tuesday, I asked each of the La Ca students to write a sentence starting with the word “I”. Britney, a fifth grader with indefatigable high spirits wrote, “I love my school.” Her school that only has class 4 hours a day because of under funding. Her school which doesn’t have lights in the classrooms. Her school, which after 5 years of English classes, hasn’t taught her the pronouns. Her school with bullet-proof glass. I pray that Britney continues to love school. I pray that she will work hard and be blessed with opportunities to go to school for as long as she wants.

ACT 2: Mother’s Encouragement

In all honesty, sometimes it seems like what we do at La California is not doing any real and permanent good. I worry that after 2 years of tutoring that these students will still not have what they need in order to succeed at La Palabra de Vida. I worry that the time and energy spent there would be better spent somewhere else. In fact about two weeks ago, I was very close to declaring our work in La California to be a fool’s errand and abandoning it. But this week, Matt Befus, my fellow science teacher, showed me a Mother Teresa quote:

“The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.

For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

If Mother Teresa is right, it’s okay if what we do at La California will never be enough. We will do it anyway.



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