Four Foothill College students recently went from taking classes to teaching them.
The students taught English at the Colegio Young Dreamers Academy in Antigua, Guatemala, from April to June. They were part of Foothill’s Guatemala Teacher Corps, a partnership between Dream Volunteers and Foothill College that has been in the works for three years.
Foothill economics instructor Brian Evans connected the college with Dream Volunteers, a nonprofit founded in 2007. Evans said he has always been interested in ways to raise the living standards of developing countries, so when he learned about Dream Volunteers, he was intrigued and wanted to get Foothill students involved.
“It has an amazing program,” Evans said. “The kids that they’re serving, the young dreamers, are coming from families that are extremely poor. They probably don’t have toilets, running water or electricity. It’s just a different reality.”
After sixth grade, there was no option for Antigua’s students, especially girls, to continue their secondary school education, according to Evans. The Guatemala Teacher Corps program emerged from his conversations with Brian Buntz of Dream Volunteers about bringing Foothill students to the school to teach English to the young dreamers, Evans said.
Steve Hambright, senior program director at Dream Volunteers, said his team originally facilitated the partnership between the Guatemala Teacher Corps and the Colegio Young Dreamers Academy and continues to support the program financially.
Since 2020, four Foothill students have been selected annually to be a part of the Guatemala corps program, but they weren’t able to teach in person until this year. Due to overlapping COVID-19 complications, students sent in March 2020 had to fly back and continue the program virtually, Hambright said, and students didn’t go in 2021 due to the pandemic. This year, student teachers taught online from January to March, then went in person a month later.
On the ground in Guatemala
Recent Foothill graduate Jayme Albritton has dreams of becoming a middle or high school English teacher. When she spotted advertisements for the Guatemala Teacher Corps in October 2021, she wanted to learn more. Albritton attended a presentation about the program, underwent an interview and was shortly admitted into the program.
Initially, she was conflicted on whether to attend the trip, because she already had a job as an after-school tutor at the Beyond the Bell program in the Mountain View Whisman School District.
“At first, I didn’t want to leave Beyond the Bell, but I decided to leave my job,” Albritton said. “I thought it would be a really hard decision, but there was so much support from my job that I felt really empowered and encouraged to go and live out this opportunity I was being offered.”
Upon arriving, Albritton was taken in by all the colorful buildings and artwork. She said Antigua is a beautiful city filled with friendly people.
“When people see you on the street, they actually smile at you and say hello, which is a big difference (from here),” she said. “In the Bay Area, everyone is trying to get somewhere, and it’s more of a rat race at times. In Antigua, people are more in the moment and engaged with you.”
The four student teachers taught Monday through Thursday mornings, with a combination of online and in-person learning, Albritton said. In addition to teaching, the Foothill students had free time to explore Antigua. Some of the excursions included going to the beach, climbing Pacaya Volcano andshopping in the town of Pastores.
On one of the last few days of the program, the students held a celebration to thank the Guatemala Teachers Corps. There was music playing, good-bye posters and gift giving.
“It was really beautiful, and they were all cheering for us,” Albritton said. “I was crying and was very in shock and happy that they were so appreciative. It made me feel seen for the sacrifices I had to make: to not work and be away from family. (That moment) is definitely something I will always remember.”
Albritton encouraged anyone considering joining the program to make the leap, because she learned many valuable lessons.
“It’s going to teach you a lot about yourself, and it’s important to have those experiences that are reflective of what you can impact in the world,” she said. “The students will teach you more about teaching than you can ever teach them about English. Learning how to be patient with ourselves and other people is a lifelong skill that you can gain from this experience.”
Foothill students taking at least nine units who are interested in being part of the corps can email Evans at email@example.com. Applications will be accepted in October.