The GSSG was founded in 2003 by John Bodoh, a retired university administrator who travelled widely in the rural, impoverished areas of Guatemala. Dr. Bodoh recognized that the best and most sustainable way to improve the lives of people living in these areas was to provide better educational opportunities for their children. At that time (and still today), most villages had, if anything, only a small elementary school which provided a minimal education. The few high schools available to village children charged tuition that was beyond the means of most families, and college was an unattainable dream.
While most non-profits that work to improve education in Guatemala focus on the elementary, middle, and high-school levels, Dr. Bodoh had bigger dreams. He envisioned an organization that would aim higher, by first identifying high-school students that showed exceptional academic and leadership qualities, and then by providing them with scholarships not only for high school, but also to attend college. He felt that by developing university-trained leaders from this underserved population, the positive effects of education would extend not only to the family and local levels, but all the way up to Guatemalan society as a whole.
Our scholarships cover a wide array of expenses, depending on the need of the student. The total costs vary depending on the need.
To maintain their scholarship, students must maintain a certain grade-point average. write three letters a year to their sponsors, and give back to their community by volunteer work, etc. As in the USA, some students take longer than others to graduate, but as long as they are progressing, their scholarship will continue until graduation.
Our “on the ground” staff members in Coban, the main city in the Alta Verapaz district, identify local educational organizations that GSSGG might partner with. This district is primarily rural and mountainous, with a high percentage of indigenous students and a high poverty level.
We choose schools that emphasize the development of leadership and academic skills. The primary language of many children in these rural areas is one of more than twenty Mayan dialects, so the schools must also teach proficiency in both Spanish and English. Read More about the Education System in Guatemala
We supply educational materials such as books and computers. In addition, we also supplement teacher’s salaries and sponsor workshops to teach the students better studying skills.
Our partner schools are asked to be on the lookout for students that excel not only in academics, but also in leadership skills and community involvement. These students are invited to fill out an application for GSSG support, and if they qualify, are interviewed by one of the GSSG staff.
The board reviews the applications and awards the GSSG scholarship to the selected students.
The educational system in Guatemala has some similarities and some differences from the one here in the US. Like the American system, education is divided into primary (grades 1-6), middle (grades 7-9), and secondary (grades 10-12). Unlike the US, only primary school is mandatory, and is the only level of education supported by the government.
Despite being mandatory, in reality many Guatemalan children do not complete primary school, much less continue on to middle school. The reasons for this are several: First, despite being government-supported, primary school students must still pay for uniforms, books, school supplies, and transportation to and from school. This is beyond the reach of many Guatemalan families, especially rural, Indigenous families. Second, the primary language of almost 40% of Guatemalans is not Spanish, but rather one of more than 20 Mayan dialects. Despite a law passed in 1996 mandating that classes be taught in both Spanish and the local dialect, this has yet to occur in many schools, requiring Indigenous children to struggle with Spanish in addition to the usual first-year problems. Because of these and other factors, at present Indigenous children average only 2.5 years of education, compared to 5.7 years in non-Indigenous children.