Eulin ChaconPrincipal, San Francisco de Chachagua School, Costa Rica
Growing up in San Carlos, Costa Rica, Eulin Chacon quickly learned the value of education when her parents, unable to afford college tuition, offered her a job at their family shoe store to help her pay her own way. "My father believed that if I paid for it, I would value it more," Eulin says. "He was right." She valued her education so much, in fact, that she earned multiple degrees in education, curriculum, and administration, and supplemented her knowledge with courses on community projects.
Eulin has called on all of these skills as principal of the San Francisco de Chacagua School. Despite the challenges of a rural location and low-income students, San Francisco has thrived under Eulin's leadership, rivaling larger schools in terms of curriculum, quality, and efficiency. So far, this is Eulin's greatest accomplishment, but like all gutsy leaders, she dreams big: "I want my school to become a small piece of heaven where children come to learn and enjoy," she says, "and I want students who lack love and food at home to be able to find it here." In such a welcoming environment, Eulin believes that students will be better able to excel, no matter what challenges they encounter in life.
She also wants the San Francisco School to be self-sustainable—a goal that she's much closer to reaching thanks to a microfarm sponsored by Grand Circle Foundation. "It's a dream come true," Eulin says. "It's the best legacy for future generations." She also credits the Foundation's partnership with improving students' self-esteem and proficiency in English, providing teachers' training and mentoring through a teacher's exchange program, and renovating the school's facilities.
More than anything, though, the San Francisco School has Eulin's strong leadership to thank for its many successes. "As a leader, I have my own ideas, but I want to hear everyone else's ideas as well," she says. "That way, we can work together as a team, as a family, for our children."
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Monica CerutiPrincipal, La Concepcion School, Argentina
In the 40 years Monica Ceruti has worked at the La Concepcion School—for ten years as a kindergarten teacher, and as principal ever since—she has already seen tremendous change in her community. "When I started working in 1969, the community had serious social, educational, and healthcare needs," she remembers. "Parents were illiterate, and many children had illnesses that were undiagnosedand untreated." In order to rectify these important issues, the school served more of a social function than an educational one at that time. And now, as Monica sees many of the children she taught in the 1970s return to the school as parents or grandparents of current students, she can see firsthand how the overall quality of life has improved. "This makes us all very happy," says Monica, "but when you work in education you always go for more—and that's where we are now."
The next step for La Concepcion, according to Monica, is to offer a full six-year high school curriculum, as opposed to the partial three-year curriculum the school offers now. It's an ambitious goal, considering the school already offers three years of kindergarten, and six years of primary school. "This is a public school, and a large portion of our funds comes from donations," says Monica. "A six-year high school program would mean increasing our monthly costs."
While a full high school curriculum hasn't become a reality yet, Monica is thankful for the improvements she's seen at La Concepcion since forming a partnership with Grand Circle Foundation. "The school has grown more over the past five years than in 35 years," she says. "It has been wonderful to witness the changes to our buildings, infrastructure, and resources."
Of course, she's thankful for the more gradual changes, too. "It's such a gift to be in a community where I can see the results of education," she says. "You have to wait two generations to see the fruits, especially in terms of big goals like social development." Under her leadership, Monica has seen children who once lived in unfavorable conditions grow up to finish school, learn new languages, and find jobs. "I feel very happy for being a small piece of that help."
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