Rise Up Belize! Advances Education in Belize
Rise Up Belize! is a nonprofit organization that promotes the educational development of Belizean children. Education in Belize is unique because all schools are tuition-based. Many children cannot afford to continue their education beyond the primary school level. Nearly 40 percent of the Central American country’s residents are under the age of 18. This places great importance on the education of its youngest citizens.
In 2014, 96.29 percent children of primary school age were enrolled in school. That same year, only 69.33 percent of students of secondary school age were enrolled. This drop of nearly 27 percent can be directly attributed to the fact that secondary school is not affordable for a significant number of families.
Joey Garcia is a writer who lives in Sacramento, California. She created Rise Up Belize! in 2004, after traveling to Belize City for a family funeral. Garcia was born in Belize and feels that the organization allows her to maintain a close relationship with her original homeland.
Each year, Rise Up Belize! selects ten high school girls from Sacramento to take part in an intensive leadership program. Over three to six months the students learn how to develop curricula, manage classrooms, raise funds and run a nonprofit organization. They also study cultural sensitivity and presentation skills.
After completing the leadership program, the girls travel to Belize where they run a week-long academic camp for fourth to sixth graders. The camp is free to attend and at the end of the week, each child leaves with a backpack filled with school supplies. Approximately 150 children attend Rise Up Belize! summer camps each year.
Rise Up Belize! also offers free professional development workshops for teachers. The three-day training program is run by Sacramento area teachers and psychotherapists who volunteer their time and expertise to help teachers in Belize hone their skills. More than 200 teachers in Belize have participated thus far.
Native Belizean students aged 13 to 16 who have completed primary school with a 2.5 GPA may apply for the Rise Up Belize! scholarship program.
Prospective recipients must have either attended a Rise Up Belize! summer camp or be recommended by a Rise Up Belize! staff member. The application process also requires students to write an essay that describes their dreams for themselves and for Belize. With so many young citizens, the future of the country certainly depends on the dreams of its students. Rise Up Belize! helps realize these ambitions by making secondary education in Belize accessible to more children.
– Kate Tilton