My name is Urzula Yanira Milian Tiul.  I was born in San Pablo Tamahu, Alta Verapaz in the year 1991, being the last of 5 brothers and sisters. My mother and father didn’t have steady jobs and were always looking for a way to get ahead.  When I was 10 years old, we migrated with my parents to Cobán for my father’s work. Through these years we have lived in the same city. In 2013 my father tragically died and I currently live with my mom and my two children, who depend only on me (because my husband abandoned us). 

Currently I am studying for a licenciatura [like a bachelor degree] of Education Administration in the 9th cycle [semester], at the Mesoamerican University, North Regional location. I decided to study this career because I like teaching; in my opinion it is one of the best professions because it can change the lives of others. The university instills in us the philosophy of the teaching of Don Bosco and motivates [us] to be professionals committed to education.

In addition to this, teaching allows me to approach new goals and purposes and inspire more young people to continue their education. In my free time I provide help to children who do not have support and because of issues with the hybrid education [part virtual and part in-person due to the pandemic], have difficulty understanding the subjects. Among the small group of children whom I tutor, I have a little 5 year old boy with autism. I have also participated in workshops with life project themes to contribute to the strengthening of the dreams and goals of young people.

Among my most important dreams is to continue with a master’s degree. I would like to study psychology; I feel that this would strengthen my actions as a teacher. Although I am currently not a teacher, my dream is to give classes in a primary school or in special education. I love reading and educating myself but I have seen that there are not many places to get books at present.  I would like to create a public library in which reading circles are encouraged and restore the idea that reading is so valuable in academic learning.

Among my short-term goals is graduation (which incidentally is coming up soon), support young people who need it in the area of education, improve the living conditions of my small family, have a stable job where I can support other young people, and be able to give back what GSSG does for me.

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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