Carlos Coc


Carlos Coc

My name is Carlos Coc Xol, I was born in El Estor, a town that is located about 8 hours northeast of Guatemala City, on the shore of the largest lake in Guatemala, Lake Izabal. I am the fifth child out of ten. I grew up speaking Q’eqchi’, a Mayan language spoken in the region. I grew up helping around my parents’ and grandparents’ homes, collecting firewood for cooking. My grandpa, Mateo, used to collect firewood and sell it to our neighbors or to restaurants downtown. I attended a public school about 10 minutes away from home. Every day we used to go to school from 7 am to 12 pm, and after we got home we rested a little bit, then we used to head out to collect wood with my friends. That was one of the daily activities we did back then.

In 2008, when I was in 8th grade, one of my Spanish teachers gave us a notice about a scholarship.  We had to take an exam at another school in town, and other students from other schools also participated. I was very happy because I was one of the students who got selected by GSSG for a full scholarship. Then a man named John Bodoh, along with Jorge Paque, came to El Estor and visited each one of the selected students with their families. In 2009, we traveled to the United States and we had to learn a certain amount of English before attending high school that same year. In spring of 2013 I graduated from McDonell Central High School in Chippewa Falls, WI, and then in August I went to attend Wake Tech Community College in North Carolina for two semesters. 

In 2016, I started a technical degree (P.E.M.) High School Teacher Program based on natural science and environmental resources, in the University of San Carlos of Guatemala. This degree allowed me to pursue a teaching job. I first worked for a small private school in El Estor, then in 2018 I went to teach weekly in a remote village almost a three hour ride away. Before getting a job, I volunteered to help teach English in a remote village two hours away from home, at a primary school from first to sixth grade. Teaching is one of the things that I like the most, that is why I chose to study this field. 

In the present day, GSSG has again given me the opportunity to continue my studies. I returned to the university to study for a Licenciatura (bachelor’s degree) in Natural Science and Environmental Education at San Carlos University. I hope to get more knowledge in order to teach better in this area. I also want to know more about the environmental laws in Guatemala, because there are many Mayan communities that have been trying to keep the environment safe from large international companies and have been forced to leave the areas. The large companies just take advantage of them and exploit all the natural resources, leaving a lot of communities in poverty and in bad living conditions. I hope someday I could help in this type of situation, because it is not easy to see how indigenous people are treated sometimes, especially if they don’t have someone that could help them. 

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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