In high income countries, reading and dreaming are luxuries to which we rarely give a second thought. Each of us learned to read because an adult sat us on his/her lap and read stories of flying carpets, giant peaches, and fairy godmothers. Our imaginations ran wild with possibility, and just as quickly as dreams were born those same adults gave us the skills we needed to chase even our wildest ambitions.

Our Leaders and Readers Program provides teens with four years of mentoring and regular, multidisciplinary leadership development workshops along with the opportunity to put their leadership into practice through leading reading activities with children in their villages. Youth leaders, seeing the impact they have on the children in their community, are transformed. They find self-worth, confidence and a new vision for their community that sparks their initiative to become leaders in other areas of their lives.

The 95 youth leaders currently in our program are reaching 4,750 elementary-school-aged children with three hours of reading activities each week. As a result, these children love to read, have improved Spanish comprehension skills (Spanish is their second language), as well as their critical and creative thinking skills – skills that will serve them the rest of their lives.

Our youth leaders are also getting an education. Because the cost of attending public school is more than half an average family’s annual income, only 10% of students in the Department of Solola attend high school. Participants in our program receive a full four-year high school scholarship. And when they graduate they are capable of doubling their families’ incomes. In 2015, 78% of our alumni were employed and 40% studied at university.

And these youth are using their education and leadership skills to improve their communities. To date, youth leaders in two of our partner communities have opened their first-ever public libraries and continue to run the libraries through the boards that they created and on which they volunteer. Our teens are class and school presidents, sports team leaders and church youth group leaders. Finally, two alumni are completing their internship this year which will end in them coming back to Solola as better trained teachers; and, hopefully, to open a branch of the innovative Asturias Academy. Ultimately, providing an opportunity for higher quality education in their region.

To learn more about some of our youth leaders and alumni click here >>