Starting Small and Creating a Better World

Elias Ottoniel Ibarra Estrada, who studied at the University of Wyoming during 2014-2015 Global UGRAD Program, hit the ground running upon his return to Guatemala. He noticed that there was a need in his community: there were no programs that offered English to the poor in and around his hometown. In his own words:

Recently, the ongoing crisis of Guatemala moved me to start something new in the area, something focused on bringing educational improvement to others. It focuses on providing a little taste of the English language and of American culture to impoverished youth from the rural areas of Flores, Petén in Guatemala.

As a result, Elias decided to create the Arrabi Academy to provide low-cost English language lessons to those in his town who would not otherwise have access to such courses. Starting out, he used his own money and savings to create the branding and lesson plans necessary to get the project off the ground. To keep costs low, the Arabbi Academy charges a nominal fee for each student to ensure that the program will continue to be sustainable. After launching in January of this year, Elias now has 75 students at his academy who gather every weekend at a conference center near a lake in the urban portion of Petén. This schedule helps to ensure that the greatest number of students possible have access to the classes as many of the youth that attend his academy work during the week.

Elias teaches using constructivist methodology, something he was exposed to at the University of Wyoming. Constructivist Methodology is the belief that the learning of a subject is more successful if the learners are actively engaged in the process of meaning and knowledge as opposed to passively receiving the information. After finishing the class portion of his academy, the students will then be asked to complete internships at local schools to provide ESL skills.

“The idea started one night on the 8th floor of Orr Hall, at the University of Wyoming when I was a UGRAD student. The inspiration came when I was thinking of ways to really do something to increase the level of quality of youth in my country.”



While Elias’s successes are impressive, he is not finished yet. His project has now assembled five leaders from the area who want to create a foundation that will allow them to reach even further into increasingly rural areas – such as the jungles of Guatemala. He is also looking for additional funding to be able to train ESL teachers at local schools and to provide them the tools and materials necessary to do their jobs.

Elias has one piece of advice for UGRADs who wish to begin projects in their home communities: “Starting something is not easy; you have to start small, and then it will grow with your ideas and the experience that you will get in the field.”

To contact Elias for more information, you can reach him on Arrabi Academy’s Facebook Page.

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