One year after the festive opening, the Mariposa Mountain School continues to have a significant impact both in the local community of Los Marranitos and within the Mariposa Center for Girls in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. The children are empowered and exposed to opportunities that increase their social and environmental awareness. Many Mountain School students are shy and timid and have no exposure outside their community. The Mountain School girls are forming relationships with other young women in the community and forming real bonds with girls from the Mariposa Center in Cabarete. Together, the students mentor each other, share different parts of their culture, and take pride in their communities of origin. Through interactions with the Mariposa Center girls, the Mountain School students gain exposure to young women who are passionate about school, take risks, and dream big. The program has focused heavily on health, wellness, and empowerment – all of which are fundamental and necessary skills in breaking the cycle of generational poverty.
Main benefits of the project
- Mentoring Opportunities: Introducing international visitors, Mariposa Center staff, and the girls to the farm has sparked unprecedented excitement, engagement, and attendance. This exposure to diverse individuals and cultures has begun to instill in the Mountain School students an understanding of their potential and a belief in their ability to achieve academic and professional success.
- Home Visits & Censuses: Recognizing the need to comprehend and have the most significant impact, it has been understood that direct interaction with community members and those involved in the students’ lives is essential. Home visits and census research have enabled direct observation of the challenges women and girls face in these communities, reinforcing the significance of the work.
- Individual Attention: Many Mountain School students have yet to receive encouragement to pursue their academic interests, let alone the opportunity to work one-on-one with professional and passionate teachers. Through the Mountain School program and on-site experience, an understanding of the specific needs of these students has been gained. This understanding has led to allocating particular teachers and dedicated time to provide these students with academic opportunities they might have never encountered.
- Health & Wellness: Learning in an academic setting proves extremely challenging when students lack knowledge about their bodies or have never discussed topics related to mental health. Many rural communities consider it taboo to address subjects such as a woman’s period, puberty, or the female body in general. Consequently, resources and time have been dedicated to conducting health classes for the students and organizing health fairs for the community. This program aims to establish a safe space where girls can comfortably express themselves and gain the confidence to take academic risks.
Students population size
The community has undergone a significant transformation, marked by exponential changes in tourism, land sales, and economic development. Within this small community are four major eco-tourism and agriculture projects, leading families to relocate or send their children to live with relatives in other communities. As urban areas continue to experience development, rural communities throughout the Dominican Republic are witnessing substantial migration to cities in pursuit of economic opportunities. Many families with long-standing legacies in Los Marranitos have left for urban areas, searching for jobs.
Nevertheless, a core group of girls has been retained, and it is believed that they will remain a part of the community for their lifetimes. One of these girls blazed a trail to university and is currently in her first year of dental school, with aspirations to become an orthodontist. Observing this student’s success, more girls in the community are recognizing their potential.
Over time, it has been observed that students’ performance and engagement experience a notable boost when they have the opportunity to interact with visitors. When international individuals, Mariposa girls from Cabarete, new teachers, and guest speakers visit the Mountain School, the students’ attendance and enthusiasm reach unprecedented levels. This phenomenon is attributed to many Mountain School girls having limited exposure beyond their communities, primarily dedicating their time to family care and household responsibilities.
School concept and curriculum
The Mountain School is an unconventional educational institution where each day presents a unique experience. After conducting censuses and engaging with the community, it became evident that imposing a traditional curriculum would not be practical for these students. Therefore, a flexible schedule has been devised to meet the community at its level of readiness while simultaneously engaging students and inciting positive change.
During the summer program, a three-week camp was organized, with children commencing their day at 8 in the morning and concluding at 4 in the afternoon. Throughout the school year, the programs are structured around projects. Efforts are continually made to infuse creativity and introduce new, captivating activities to keep the students engaged. Examples of such initiatives include Health Week, celebrations of the International Day of the Girl, and workshops in art and theater conducted by professional artists.
Students typically attend their local public school from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. When the Mountain School’s programming is in session, most students undertake a considerable walk to and from school. On many weekends and holidays, students wake up early to assist with household tasks before coming to the Mountain School at 10 a.m. During this time, programming is conducted for 2-3 hours on Saturdays and Sundays. The programming offerings rotate through each session, encompassing literacy, math computation, English acquisition, computer skills, hiking, gardening, art, theater, health, empowerment, and team-building games in which students actively participate.
Extended impact in the community
Community events and activities have successfully united families for the common good, promoting socialization and empowerment within the community. There has been a noticeable increase in environmental awareness, driven by the educational programs that instill the importance of safeguarding local resources and providing the tools to effect positive changes within the immediate community.
The Mariposa Mountain School has embraced employing local community members. This approach enables individuals to work near their homes, fostering greater involvement in their children’s lives.
Given the small population, the Mariposa Mountain School serves in the mountainous region of Jarabacoa, supporting the students also directly benefits the families. Parents value the availability of programs that facilitate their children’s learning, growth, and exposure to educational opportunities they might not otherwise receive.
Acronis Cyber Foundation Program welcomes individuals, groups, and companies to partner with us to work side-by-side with underserved communities to bring them hope through education and build a school together.
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