Besides holding the first seminar: “Youth at risk and violence prevention programs in Latin America,” on March 2nd, during this first week of March, I visited the Highland Campus of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG). Thus, this week, I was able to further my learning about the Violence Prevention Program (VPP) developed in this campus. This blog summarizes that field experience.
Sololá, where the UVG Highland Campus is located, a city known for having an indigenous legal and administrative system, besides the mainstream city government. Sololá is located near the Atitlán Lake, a known tourist destination. The municipality of Sololá is mostly populated by people of Kaqchikel and K’iche’ heritage, and the student population of the UVG Highland Campus is mostly Mayan.
Ninety three percent of students in the UVG Highland Campus are supported through some type of scholarships, including tuition waiver, housing accommodations with host families, food assistance, and the provision of educational and personal materials. The campus also provides a wide range of psycho-social services ensuring that students are able to thrive in the academic educational system, overcoming a history of malnourished, marginalization, and social exclusion experienced by indigenous families throughout Guatemala. The U.S. Foundation of the University of the Valley of Guatemala promotes fundraising for the several scholarship programs implemented in the UVG Highland Campus.
Of the 70 youth benefited by the Violence Prevention Program (VPP) financed by RTI International with USAID funds, 10 youth were originally placed in the UVG Highland Campus. Two of them dropped from the program during the first year but 8 of them successfully graduated from technical programs in ago-forestry or tourism. Two of them pursued higher education and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences during the graduation that the study research associate, Marco Saz, and I attended this weekend.
With the study research associate, Tannia Castañeda, we had the opportunity to discuss the study with the VPP coordinators. They were a psychologist and a social worker who managed the program and provided psycho-social support to the youth placed in the UVG Highland Campus. I was also able to meet with administrators, faculty and other staff involved or knowledgeable about the program, and some of the students involved in the program, and even the parents of one of them.
Through this 3-day field visit, the research team was able to establish the necessary rapport with potential participants of the proposed transformative evaluation, especially for the development of the future interviews and focus groups. One unexpected outcome of this visit was the conceptualization and planning of a 3rd seminar with the VPP coordinators. The 3rd seminar will be focused on the VPP program and will be held in the UVG Highland Campus, hopefully with virtual participation of the Central and South campuses. This May seminar will involve more fully the local actors, including the youth benefited by the wide range of scholarship programs in the UVG Highland Campus. More to come!