The Free High School of San Juan del Sur opened in 2002 to give adolescents and adults who are excluded from regular schools a chance at secondary education. Students include women with children, anyone over eighteen, people who work on weekdays to support their families, and those who live too far from the city to attend daily high schools. In their first year, they graduated 12 students. By 2014, the total number of graduates had grown to 683, and they also opened a Free Technical School in 2006 which offers advanced technical degrees in accounting, tourism, business administration, and construction. In 2014, the schools served over 700 students, the majority of whom were women.
For these students, the Free High School and Free Technical School are their only opportunity to receive a quality education, and their drive to learn is remarkable. Before Random Acts helped them purchase a bus in 2013, many rural students had to wake up well before dawn and walk up to fifteen kilometers through the jungle to catch a crowded and unreliable public bus. During the rainy season, this meant crossing fast-flowing rivers. Some students did this during their pregnancy, while others skipped lunch in order to pay the bus fare. And yet, to earn their diplomas, they did this 42 Saturdays a year, for at least two years. The free bus now serves these rural students from the south.
Of the 2012 graduates, almost half were the first in their family to receive a high school diploma. The Free High School and Free Technical School are not only opening doors to economic opportunities, but also changing the culture of the region. They are reducing gender inequality, drug use, prostitution, poverty, domestic violence, environmental degradation, unwanted pregnancy, and ill health. They teach the values of community outreach and produce valuable workers, active citizens, and socially-minded leaders that their country so desperate needs. Nicaragua’s Vice-Minister of Education called these programs a model for the nation.
Currently the Free High School operates out of an elementary school building where there isn’t enough space, chairs, or desks, and the chairs and desks they do have are too small for the students to sit comfortably. The computer lab is offsite and generally 2-3 people must crowd around each computer. Please help us build the dream campus which they so desperately need!