Guatemalan academy hopes to forge partnership with University

Ashley Jefferson

The Phi Iota Alpha Latino Fraternity will host Guatemalan speaker Jorge Chojolan tomorrow afternoon.

His visit marks hopes for a partnership with Villanova that will allow students to take service break trips to the Miguel Angel Austrias Academy and provide students at the academy with a chance to continue their education here.

His talk entitled “The Fierce Urgency of Nuestra America: Neglected and Ever-Present” will discuss his life story, the poverty and lack of education that plagues his homeland and Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.”

This will be Chojolan’s third annual visit to the United States, but it is the first time he will conduct organized talks at several universities and high schools across the country about the hardships of life in Guatemala.

Having grown up in poverty, Chojolan is no stranger to the epidemic-like issues facing his country. Like Chojolan, many of the people in Guatemala are of Mayan descent and have experienced the worst of the oppression throughout history. Despite civil wars, not much has changed since then.

In Guatemala, the unemployment rate is nearly 20 percent and 80 percent of the population lives on less then $3 a day.

Public education is free in Guatemala, but there is a lack of schools in the rural areas in which many of the poor people live.

To combat this problem, Chojolan started the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy in 1994 and has made it his life mission to improve education in Guatemala.

The Miguel Angel Asturias Academy currently has about 300 students in grades K-12. In addition to basic schooling, students are also taught skilled trades so they are able to find jobs to support their families and improve their quality of life.

Part of the money that they earn goes toward funding a college education if they choose to pursue one.

Chojolan will visit several schools during his 3-week tour on which Villanova is his first stop.

In telling his life story and expounding on the issue of poverty plaguing the people of his country, Chojolan strives to raise awareness.

People need to be aware of the disparity between the rich and poor, privileged and underprivileged, educated and uneducated, according to Chojolan, who feels that it is most important to recognize that these are not just issues in Guatemala but around many parts of the world.

While here, Chojolan will also meet with Campus Ministry representatives along with Michael Gaynor, the dean of admissions, in hopes of forging a long lasting partnership.

Together, they will discuss the possibility of partnerning to send students to each other’s respective institutions. For Villanova students, the partnership would provide the opportunity to learn firsthand about the daily struggle Guatemalans face.

“What he’s doing for people of Guatemala is very commendable,” said Raul Garcia, president of the Phi Iota Alpha Latino Fraternity. “It would be great for Villanova students to get a chance to take part in such a good cause.”

The presentation is cosponsored by numerous departments and student groups, including: political science, humanities, peace and justice, Spanish, Latin American studies, CAT and Greek life.

“With all of these groups coming together, it really makes a statement about the value of education,” Garcia said. “Villanova recognizes that it’s not just an issue that effects people in the United States, but in Latin America, and ultimately, the world.”