April 11, 2024

It was the beginning of my spring break at UChicago, and I was in Mexico for my holidays. I remember the morning, at a mall plaza with my friends, when I opened my email on my phone and read the great news. I was granted the Davis Project for Peace to Undertake my project called “Breaking Violent Areas with Empowered Students.” I couldn’t hold my excitement, so I started to jump and instantly told my friends. The grant of the funds means the pinnacle of the work I have been undertaking for the last five years in my home city, Cali, located in Colombia, to promote equality of education. It also means a boost of hope for the different grassroots organizations I have worked with and those on the fight line longer than me, working with scarce resources. Breaking Violent Areas with EmpowerEd Students is an education program that aims to prevent underprivileged high school students from being involved in violent situations during their out of school time and to nurture a bilingual (English Spanish) youth workforce in Cali. Bilingualism is critical as it has allowed me to have opportunities I never imagined working in Washington, D.C., and studying at the University of Chicago. Additionally, bilingualism becomes relevant to the city’s economy as multiple transnational companies opening operations in the town offer formal and well paid jobs. Unfortunately, not all Colombian high school students have the same opportunities to be trained in English, and just 1 in 10 high school students graduate with a B+ English level (ICFES 2022). Therefore, to promote equal opportunities among youths, it is essential to encourage bilingual skills.

Through this grant, I plan to reach 120 high school students between 11 and 17 years old from Siloé and Altos de Menga, two violent and low income neighborhoods in Cali, Colombia. To do so, I will partner with two NGOs: Colegio de Adultos Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes and Fundación Talentos de Altos de Menga, organizations located in the mentioned areas. Additionally, we will build a small language computer lab to teach and measure participants’ English levels. An A1 English level curriculum will also be designed and delivered to the partnering institutions. This curriculum will be taught during the summer English school. It will be uploaded online on a web page designed during the project. Furthermore, we will consolidate our online community of Proyecto 2E. I am excited for the summer as this is the first time, I will travel to my city for a different reason than visiting it. I can’t wait to explore the communities, meet the students, and work in person with the partner institutions.

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