The Classrooms for Change Campaign has Launched!

Today we are launching the Classrooms for Change Campaign. The campaign aims to raise $75,000 over the next 6 weeks to build new classrooms at the Mission School. Watch the introductory video, learn why these classrooms are needed, and find out how you can get involved by following our campaign here. 

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Graduation at the Mission School

Last Friday, the Mission School hosted the graduation ceremony for students. It was the first time they have been able to host an in-person celebration in two years due to the coronavirus pandemic. The ceremony celebrated 107 graduates, 20 of whom received full scholarships to attend school thanks to your generosity. 

The Mission School graduation ceremony, Friday, March 18, 2022.

In Ecuador, it is common that students elect a ‘padrino’ or godparent for graduation from high school. The godparent is someone influential in their life that has helped them reach the milestone of graduation, and someone they see as a positive influence into the future. Usually, the godparent is a close family friend or extended relative. Students are accompanied to the graduation ceremony by their godparents, the students sit with their godparents, and at the appropriate time, godparents help the students move their tassels from one side of their cap to another, signifying that they are graduates. It is a sweet tradition and an example of how strong community life is here.

A few of the graduates preparing to enter the graduation ceremony accompanied by their godparents.

You may recognize some of the graduates this year. Michelle is one of our scholarship recipients that was featured in a video last year with her mom. You can view the video here. The past year has been extremely hard for Michelle and her family, as they were forced to move from their already inadequate home. Her mom continues to work in informal farm labor. Michelle had to stay home to watch her siblings for a while, even when classes returned to in-person learning since her siblings’ classes remained virtual. But despite these circumstances, Michelle was able to complete her studies with excellent grades. And there was no one with a bigger smile on Friday than her mom. Her pride in her daughter’s accomplishment was palpable. Michelle will take the university entrance exam this week and continues to hope to study medicine. Congratulations to Michelle, and all the other Mission School graduates! And thank you to all of you, who helped support so many students in reaching this accomplishment! 

Michelle holding her diploma with her mom, Tania.

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New Desks at the Mission School

Thanks to your generosity, we are in the process of replacing and adding 500 new school desks at the mission school. This is a project that the mission school administration, teachers, and students have been requesting for some time now, and we are excited to help it become a reality. 

For years, the mission school students have been learning on right-handed only plastic desks. The desks are prone to breaking, creating a shortage in recent years. Due to mandated virtual learning caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the desk shortage did not become obviously problematic until recently when the students returned to the classroom. We have made it a priority to ensure that there is good quality, appropriate seating available for all students for the 2022 school year. 

One of our students, Marcela, shares her experience during these past few weeks of the school year. She is one of many students having to carry a plastic desk from classroom to classroom due to the desk shortage. She laughs as she carries her plastic desk across the mission school campus, able to stay so positive out of pure enthusiasm for being back to in-person learning at the school. But we know that this is not a positive or long-term solution. 

Marcela carries her desk from one class to the next. We will eliminate this desk shortage by the start of the 2022 school year so that students do not have to constantly move around desks!

After conducting research on classroom design and optimal learning environment, as well as receiving input from a few education experts, we have ordered a combination of individual student desks (both right and left handed), as well as tables and chairs to optimize group learning. A local Ecuadorian carpenter will be building the desks, tables, and chairs for us, thereby allowing us to support the local economy as well as complete a necessary project for the mission school. With the school year coming to an end next week, the new desks, tables and chairs will be ready for the beginning of the 2022 school year in May. Thank you for your generosity and helping create an effective learning environment for our students!

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2021 Annual Report

We are excited to share our 2021 annual report with you! Please click here to view the complete report.

As you will see, our annual report includes an overview of all we were able to accomplish last year, direct quotes from our beneficiaries, and a closer look at our finances. Your generosity and support made our work possible. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!

Please consider sharing this report with anyone you know that might be interested in learning more about Mission Santa Maria. We are so grateful to partner with you in this work.

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An Update as We Begin the New Year

The beginning of the calendar year coincides with the end of the school year here in Ecuador. Unfortunately, due to rising coronavirus concerns with the omicron variant, the mission school returned to complete virtual learning right before Christmas. Almost everyone we know has been sick in the past few weeks, but gratefully symptoms have been mild and hospitalizations rare. It is extremely discouraging for the students to be back online. The school year ends in February and it is unlikely students will return to the classroom before then. But we are extremely hopeful that the mission school will start the 2022 school year with in-person learning. 

The children at the mission home continue to be fortunate through these years of virtual learning. They have maintained a relatively ‘normal’ routine, attending classes led by tutors every morning, and completing homework followed by group games and activities in the afternoon. The past month brought a few new faces to the mission home, including one-year old twins. We doubt that we have begun to see the long term economic and social effects of the pandemic, but it is obvious that child suffering continues to be rampant by the number of new children at the home each month. We are grateful for the missionary women that welcome and care for them with such love.

Regan trying to play with Diego and his twin sister, Nelly. The twins arrived at the home last month.

In our university program, most of the students are studying virtually. We have enrolled another group of high-school seniors into our university preparation course. They will take the entrance exam to university in March. We look forward to sharing some of their personal stories with you in the coming weeks.

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Choosing a ‘Major’ at the Mission School

When students enter high school in Ecuador, they choose a ‘major’. At the Mission School, students can choose from accounting, hospitality, and life sciences. All students continue to take basic core classes, including English language, mathematics, and history, but their schedules are filled with other classes particular to the major that they have chosen. One of the benefits of this form of education is that students graduate with practical skills. For those that do not pursue college level education, these skills will hopefully help them acquire a job. 

Students in the hospitality major learning how to bake bread.

The most popular major at the Mission School is hospitality. Many students report choosing this major because tourism is such a large part of the economy in our area. In the hospitality major, students take business and management classes, marketing courses, and even cooking classes. Students in their final year of this major have to complete projects to demonstrate their skills. Coupled with our enhanced English language program, we are hopeful that future students graduating with a major in hospitality will have a variety of job opportunities post high school. 

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Check Us Out!

We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of Knopman Marks Financial Training. Their support empowers us to help lift children out of poverty through education.

They were kind enough to interview our founder and share the story on their website here.

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A Merry Christmas Video For You

A few kids and parents in our programs wanted to share this message with you. Wishing you and your families a very Merry Christmas!

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Give the Gift of Education This Christmas

Would you consider adding Mission Santa Maria to your Christmas list? Here is what we need most this Christmas to continue to best serve the children in our programs.

– University scholarships $400/month
We are so excited and proud that 6 new students have joined our University program this fall. Would you consider supporting one of them?

Our 6 new university students.

– Washing machines for the Mission Home $600
We need to replace a few washing machines at the Mission Home. With the salt water air and all the laundry that is done everyday, even the best washing machines only last a few years. 

Our last 2 washing machines. The one on the right broke three days ago.

– Scholarship Plus Program $1200 or $100/month 
Some of our students lost their parents during the past two years and are not only in need of tuition assistance, but need help paying for bus fare and food during the year. This program will help meet the exceptional needs of these students. 

A mom and her children in front of their home. The children will be a part of our scholarship plus program.

– An English Teacher at the Mission school $7,000/year
Our English department is growing rapidly but in order to make true advances, we need to decrease class size (current class size is 38-40 students, can you imagine trying to learn another language with that many students?). 

One of the English classes. There are less students than usual due to coronavirus precautions.

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