Americas Quarterly, 10/12/2010
To address educational gaps among marginalized populations in the Americas, a group of Latin American students attending Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched in 2004 an education assistance network. Drawing from the knowledge and expertise in the United States, their goal was to expand access to secondary and higher education for underprivileged urban, rural and indigenous communities.
The network, called ViaEducation, designs curricula, provides teacher training and facilitates youth-organized community development projects. In just six years, ViaEducation has developed programs in eight Latin American countries. The Mexico program is the fastest growing and has already reaped some tangible successes.
A pilot program in the northern states of Nuevo León and Guerrero has doubled in size over the past two years to 240 schools. According to Mariali Cárdenas Casanueva, ViaEducation’s Director of Educational Development in Mexico, the key is grassroots community involvement. “When the community leads the projects, the ideas come from their own needs and observations,” says Cárdenas, who worked for 15 years in social development of rural and indigenous communities before starting ViaEducation. “This makes the project more sustainable and the changes more lasting.”