My name is Alba Rojas Xona. I was born in Coban Alta Verapaz. When I was three months old, my birth mother passed away due to a stroke. My birth father took my three older sisters with him to live in Guatemala City.   He left me with my aunt, who I consider my mother since she raised me since then. 

My aunt (mother) could not afford to pay for my studies since she had her own kids too. So, at the age of 12 I took a year off from school and worked as a waitress at a restaurant. 

When I was fifteen years old, I heard about GSSG and I applied for the opportunity to come to the US to study. [In the beginning years of GSSG, students were brought to the US on student visas to study and live with host families]. I thought I was not going to qualify for it, but I was approved and that is how I became part of GSSG. I finished my four years of high school and completed my three years of community college in the US. I received my Associates in Art degree in 2013. 

Now, in Guatemala in 2021, I am finishing my last year to get my licenciatura [similar to a bachelor degree] in Science in Administration and Technology. I chose this career because it helps develop my leadership skills, and it helps me to learn the fundamentals of business. 

I currently work at Telus International, which is a provider of multilingual customer experience and IT solutions to global clients. Within TXU Energy. I specifically work for the TXU Energy account. TXU Energy is an electricity provider in Texas. I am a customer representative, and my job is to sell electricity plans to residential customers. I want to advance within Telus International. They give a lot of opportunity to grow within the company and provide constant training and the tools needed to acquire leadership skills.

In the future I would like to start my own business and help a lot of people who don’t have a job. I would also like to continue helping my siblings so that they can all get their college degrees; that way they could also help people in our community. 

Education System Glossary

Since the Guatemalan government only funds education to the end of elementary school, it is not all that common, especially in the rural areas, for someone to graduate from middle school. Thus, these students are awarded an actual degree, called the Basico, which carries some weight when looking for a job, etc.

High school comes in a variety of flavors in Guatemala. All of course are private, and there are seemingly as many curriculums as there are schools. Some high schools focus on particular careers, such as teaching, accounting, surveying, etc. Usually, it takes 3-4 years to complete, and they are awarded with a certificate of competency at the end. In teaching, the certificate entitles one to teach at the elementary school level only. More academically-oriented high schools have a curriculum similar to US schools, which includes language arts, math, science, history, etc. These typically require 4-5 years to complete, and graduates are awarded the Diversificado degree, which is required if the student wishes to continue their education at the University level. This is the degree that most GSSG-supported high school students are pursuing.

The University system in Guatemala is like the high school system, in that there are many degrees, and many ways to get a degree. There is only one public university, the University of San Carlos, and about a dozen private universities. Like high school, students can decide early to specialize in a particular field, and after 2-3 years, graduate with a “tecnico” degree. In education, this degree awards them the title of “Profesor”, and qualifies them to teach all the way through high school. For those wishing to go further in Education or other fields, there is the “Licenciatura” degree, which is awarded after four years of study in one’s major plus an additional year researching and writing a thesis that addresses some national problem in Guatemala. So far, three GSSG students have been awarded their Licenciatura degree, with several more hoping to have theirs by next year.

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