Amped for Education

Since discovering the need for functional schools in Nicaragua, Jeff Pluta has been inspired to combine his love for education and desire to impact the developing world.

In 2009, Pluta started “Amped for Education,” a volunteer organization based in Massachusetts that works with Nicaraguan communities to facilitate the continuation of education beyond the primary level. Five years later, Amped for Education has completed and is working on various projects to improve education in Nicaragua.

Where does “Amped for Education” get its name? Aside from being a catchy tagline, “amped” is a play on words according to Pluta.

In Spanish, “ampliar” is a word meaning “to expand.” Pluta’s organization does just that; it expands educational opportunities in Nicaraguan villages. “Amped” implies the organization’s mission and the founder’s excitement for the projects.

Amped for Education aims to eradicate poverty in Nicaragua through education. Like many other organizations of its kind, Amped believes that education provides people with the tools needed to improve sustainability, create a more competitive job market and integrate into the global economy.

Education to do all of these things cannot happen at the primary level, though.

In Nicaragua, students are required to attend six years of school only. In other words, students only have to complete primary education. Amped for Education’s programs make secondary and tertiary education more enticing to citizens of rural Nicaraguan villages so that they will learn the material necessary to lift themselves out of poverty.

There are several ways to contribute to Amped for Education’s cause. The website includes a link to sponsor a Nicaraguan student.

Many students cannot attend school in Nicaragua because they cannot afford essentials such as backpacks, supplies, uniforms and books. By donating $185 per year, sponsors can send a child in Nicaragua to school with these essentials and dental and eye examinations as well.

Amped for Education asks sponsors to commit to five years of donations so that they can send the same student through the full five years of secondary education. In return, donators receive updates about their students’ grades, photos and letters. Sponsors also have the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua with one of the organization’s service trips to meet their individual students.

Teachers in the United States can donate without having to give any money. The website also provides a link for high school teachers to create lesson plans for teachers in the Nicaraguan schools to use. Because many of the teachers do not have the same degree of training as teachers in the United States need, the lesson plans are very helpful for the secondary schools in Nicaraguan villages.

Amped for Education leads service trips for volunteers to travel to Nicaragua to complete projects and meet the community members. The organization realizes how important tourism is to the Nicaraguan economy and, therefore, attempts to combine tourism with volunteer opportunities. Volunteers may help build secondary schools, create roadways to make the schools more accessible and experience the more typical tourist attractions in Nicaragua.

Pluta is a full-time high school teacher and baseball coach in Massachusetts. As a result, a good number of volunteer trip participants are students from his school. In July, students from his school and surrounding schools traveled to Nicaragua to build houses and play baseball with locals. The students learned from observing the severity of the poverty levels in Nicaragua and carried their knowledge and experiences back to Massachusetts.

The next baseball and volunteering combined experience will take place in February of 2015. Participants will build a new learning center with Amped for Education and play games against teams from Granada and the Corn Islands.

The Nicaraguan educational system has great potential, but it needs support to make the most of that potential. Organizations like Amped for Education can provide necessary support to rural areas of Nicaragua while raising awareness within the United States.

Emily Walthouse

Sources: Amped for Education 1, Amped for Education 2, MassLive, WGBY
Photo: MassLive