I had the most incredible, transformative experience in San Juan del Sur this past January thanks to the Free High School for Adults and the Newton San Juan del Sur Sister City Project. It is remarkable in its ability to transform the lives of community members in regards to education. It is the most impactful and efficient nonprofit that I have ever had the pleasure of working with.
I interviewed numerous students who go to the Free High School. It serves some of the most hardworking, dedicated, and driven people that I have ever met in my life. Each story that I heard was characterized by perseverance and determination. Some people were unable to complete their education as a young person because of work, the birth of their children, or even the inability to purchase school supplies. They truly value their education. The students at the FHS have an intense desire to learn and grow as people: parents, employees, etc. Attendance is purely self-motivated, which makes for a serious learning environment. FHS graduates are leaders in their communities with very respectable jobs. They are confident, humble, and they take pride in their education and their standing as FHS alumni.
I've been volunteering with the Newton Sister City Project for years. This group is doing cutting edge work in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, in both education and health. The Free High School for Adults is a one-of-its-kind treasure, offering high quality secondary education to those not welcome in the public high school--pregnant women or mothers, married people, anybody over 18. Newton's work in "Appropriate Technology for Public Health"--BioSand Filters to purify water in the home, EcoStoves for smoke-free cooking, Composting Toilets, etc--reaches high standards and have produced valuable innovations. Dozens of volunteers work for the Sister City Project during the year, and give rave reviews. So do I.
The Free High School serves a pressing need in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua--a huge number of people (over 18, or pregnant or with kids, or who have had to work) are simple not allowed to attend the "public" high school. The FHS is a lifesaver for them. They get to complete a secondary education, either in their villages, or by coming into town once a week and studying all day in the Sabatino or Saturday School. And because they follow the national curriculum, their degree has the same value as a public school diploma. It's been wildly successful, so much so that they're bursting at the seams, with enrollments rising steadily year after year. People know a good thing when they see it. Until the government Does The Right Thing and starts to fund secondary educations for EVERYBODY who needs it, we all need to support the FHS, which has been called "a model for the rest of the country."
"The Free High School is a model for the nation.” Vice-Minister of Education, Marlon Siu.
“The Free High School is changing the culture of the region.” –former Vice-mayor of San Juan
I co-founded the Free High School in 2002, and, as a volunteer, I raise funds for it every year. I think it is the most important institution in San Juan del Sur for empowering women and men for life. Every year we change the lives of 650-700 students who could not continue their education otherwise.
The Free High School has been independently reviewed and found to be the best of its kind.
My husband and I are living in Nicaragua, and are witnesses to the amazing effects that the Newton San Juan del Sur Sister Project has on this part of the world. We volunteered on a project in which they created a school for a community that otherwise had no schoolhouse to teach their young children. Now, the kids have a place to learn! That schoolhouse has real value, and has had a profound impact on their lives.
The Sister City Project is an inspiration. It is helping the community of San Juan in the most powerful way possible -- by educating its people. Once armed with an education, graduates of the Free High School are able to find new or better jobs, pass on their learnings to their families, and enrich their lives. The change is real, and it's pretty wonderful to witness.
Review from Guidestar
Through this nonprofit, I was able to travel to Nicaragua four times between the ages of 16 and 20. Our group participated in a variety of projects including building a preschool, building eco-friendly stoves and water filtration systems, digging wells, and delivering school supplies. I feel so lucky to have gained so many wonderful experiences early on in my life through this amazing nonprofit.
The Free High School for Adults in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua is my favorite non-profit. I don’t know of a more effective project to provide educational opportunity anywhere.
The Free High School for Adults is a non-profit that creates the opportunity for adults to get a high school education. Adults in Nicaragua, anyone over the age of 18, have no possibility to attend high school without this project. Many of these people had to leave school and go to work to support their families at the age of 14 or 15. They are still working, but on Saturdays from 7:30 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon they can attend this intensive high school program and get a real education. For this opportunity, many people get up before 5:00 a.m. and travel by foot, bicycle and bus to reach the high school. All the money for this program comes from donations to the project and all the fund-raising is done by volunteers. Each student in the program commits to helping at least one other person improve their skills. The Minister of Education has proclaimed this a “model program for the nation”, but the government provides no funding for the program.
The number of students completing high school through this program has grown from 12 in its first year to 63 in December of 2012, with a total of 482 graduates plus 60 in the Technical Program. Some of the students have gone on to university on scholarships. Others have found new, better-paying jobs based on their new skills and some have begun their own businesses.
That’s why the Free High School for Adults in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua is my favorite non-profit.
I have visited the high school for adults, a Newton Sister City Project as well as other projects in San Juan. The sister city has helped citizens of San Juan for years to get education for people who are otherwise unable to go to school because they are working or because the women have children, to get clean water and get stoves with chimneys that alleviate the lung diseases caused by the interior cooking fires. Every project in which I have participated used used the small amount of money it had wisely, primarily for supplies and salaries for the San Juan teachers and other workers. Wherever I went in San Juan with any of the Sister City Project workers we were greeted with enthusaism and gratitude even from students who had attended the school years ago. This is a project that deserves all the support it can get because the returns in terms of betterment of people's lives are so great and obvious. This organization has had a life changing impact on people who, for instance, got jobs they would not otherwise have been able to get because the free high school for adults offered them an opportunity Nicaragua denied them.
The Free High School offers a second chance to people who were cut out of the school system for various reasons. Girls who became mothers before they finished school , boys who did not finish by seventeen would never have had a chance at an educaton without the Free high School and that's what gives this school its aura of heroisim and achievement and promise for the future where old and young will assist each other and the distinctions will be less important. The graduates go on to more productive lives than they had hoped for and that is what makes supporting this endeavor so particularly satisfying.
Review from Guidestar
The staff, vision, coordination, and impact of programming allow this organization to deeply affect the lives of many. I believe this organization is helping to create a better world.
I'm an educator, and I love schools. A good school is at the heart of a community. The Free High School, by providing education and services (for 550 people!) is doing something not just for the students, but for the communities they are a part of. San Juan Del Sur is fortunate to have partners here who understand (1) the importance of a good education and (b) that we owe something to the people of Nicaragua.This project makes a difference.
There is no way to quantify the good that the Newson San Juan del Sur Sister City Project has done over the course of nearly 25 years. Many volunteers and organizations come and go, but this charity has remained dedicated for the long haul. As a result at least 20 schools have been built and maintained, hundreds of water filters have been distributed throughout rural communities, and families have received EcoStoves to prevent respiratory diseases. The Free High School for Adults has provided a top notch government recognized education to hundreds of teens and adults who have no choice but to work during the week and receive their secondary education on Saturdays.