If you are a long time reader of Yucatan Living, you know the Progreso Apoyo Program has been providing school supplies and uniforms to needy and deserving students in grades 1-12 in Progreso for the past 8 years. As children inevitably do, the original children in the program are growing up and graduating from high school, successfully completing the Apoyo Program’s mission. Many of the program’s graduates have the grades and desire to attend universities and pursue careers as doctors, teachers, engineers, etc. but few have the financial resources, even though the financial requirements for a university education in Yucatan are a fraction of the cost of a university education north of the border.
In recent years, Kitty, the administrator and originator of the Progreso Apoyo program, has been actively encouraging sponsors of selected high school graduates to “stick with their kids” by continuing their annual Apoyo commitments for 4 more years to assist them through college. We know this from personal experience, as the Working Gringos have been supporting a young man since the sixth grade… and he will soon be going to nursing school! Thanks to one sponsors’ overwhelming generosity, the program had its very first college graduate in June of 2013: a fully-fledged junior high school physics teacher. Two dedicated sponsors encouraged Kitty to create a more formal program for the college students. Once she determined what the likely costs might be, she asked several of last year’s high school seniors to submit lists detailing every expense associated with attending the school of their choice.
The initial numbers pointed out several important things:
1. Tuition at private colleges is way beyond the reach of most middle class families in Progreso, so those were crossed off the list.
2. Government schools may in fact provide better educations. The competition for admission to these schools is fierce because tuition is very affordable (a win-win for the program). Only 1 in every 8 applicants is accepted at the Autonomous University of the Yucatan (UADY), and it is the best college in Merida.
3. While tuition at government schools like UADY or the Teachers College in Merida are between $1,200 – 2,500 pesos per year (about USD $100-250 which is LESS than the cost of a year of High School), it is the bus fare to/from Merida and the cost of computer time that puts college beyond the reach of most of Progreso high school graduates. Even at the discounted student rate, the daily round trip to Merida costs $23 pesos daily plus another $12 pesos to/from the campus, as most classrooms are nowhere near the Progreso bus route. $35 pesos a day times 5 days a week times 20 weeks a semester comes out to $3,500 pesos per semester. For two semesters, the cost is $7,000 pesos a year (about USD $550), more than twice the cost of tuition. Computer time is another absolute necessity for a college degree these days, as research needs to be done online and homework assignments must be submitted via e-mail. Even if a kid can get by with just an hour a day at $10 pesos using a public internet café (and most decent students would need more than this), that adds up to $50 pesos a week for 20 weeks/semester, 2 semesters which comes to another $2,000 pesos a year (between USD $150-200) at a very minimum.
In the end, they calculated that the current cost for a Progreso student to attend a government school in Merida is between $12,000 and $16,000 pesos (USD $1200-1300) per year, including books and supplies.
Progreso Apoyo now has a formal program to help a select number of their very best Apoyo graduates see their college dreams come true. The program is called The Career Advancement Program of Progreso, or CAPP. The program’s mission is to award direct partial financial aid scholarships (becas, in Spanish) to select high school graduates of the Progreso Apoyo Program to enable them to pursue CAPP-approved careers at universities or technological schools.
The following are the requirements that the students must fulfill in order to qualify:
- Graduate from the Progreso Apoyo Program with overall GPA of 80% or higher
- Career choice and school approved by CAPP
- Completion of CAPP application with a recent photo
- Fill out an application and attach two letters of recommendation from non-family members (At least one from a high school teacher) and write a one-page essay explaining why they want this beca and what it will mean to them and their families
- Show a source of income or explanation of how (and how much) they will financially contribute each year
- Contribute 8 hours per month of secular community service (trash or graffiti clean-up, volunteering at Ecology, tutoring undergrads in Apoyo Program, etc.)
- Personal interview with CAPP board prior to CAPP acceptance
- Maintain a minimum 85% GPA in all university courses and present semester grades to CAPP on timely basis
- Attendance at CAPP fundraising events (dinners, etc.)
The program’s three-page application and detailed cover letter explaining all the requirements is by invitation only. CAPP added six freshmen to its two sophomores this year. Additional sponsors are needed for at least 8 of our 11 graduating Program Apoyo students in 2014-15.
As long-time observers of this excellent program, we invite you to spread the word about CAPP to family, friends and colleagues. They are off to a good start with just over 50,000 pesos collected so far this year. The program is making a 4-year commitment to each student they accept, so they feel that the entire four-year costs must be covered before they can consider inviting new students from next year’s Apoyo graduating class.
The beauty of CAPP is that one-time donations in any amount with no further commitment will entitle you to receive CAPP newsletters 3-4 times annually as long as you want them. A donation to the CAPP program is a great way to do a little (write a check) and receive a lot, not to mention change a young Yucatecan’s life in a huge way.
As you might remember, not only does the Progreso Apoyo program do great things for children in Progreso, but this program inspired two other communities to do the same. Together, the 3 Apoyo Programs in the beach communities have sent 232 kids back to school this fall and project leaders are still meeting regularly to brainstorm, problem solve and generally support each other whenever we can.
There is great news to share on both the city and national level, too! The Mexican Congress has this month overwhelmingly passed (102-22) an Education Reform Law that will require all teachers to pass a competency exam within the next two years in order to remain in their classrooms. In addition, no teacher will hereafter be permitted to sell or inherit a teaching position. While this may sound incredible, it has been the system here for awhile. We feel Mexican education is about to change in a big and very positive way. Progreso also now has free WIFI in its major parks and along the Malecòn. While this doesn’t put laptops into the hands of our poorer students (Kitty is working on that too!), it is another step towards a brighter future for kids who truly want to learn.
If you would like to donate to the CAPP program or the Progreso Apoyo program, please contact Kitty Morgan at kbmorgan_99 [at] yahoo [dot] com. People are always asking Yucatan Living for ideas of how they can volunteer or donate to help people in the Yucatan. This is the best way we know of and we highly encourage you to support this or similar programs to help the deserving youth of this area.