BECAS saw growth, progress, perseverance, and tragedy during the 2015-2016 school year. This seventh year of operation tested our strength as an organization and challenged our scholars, our staff, and our Board to celebrate the successes and move forward in the face of change and grief.
The year started with welcoming two new scholars, Brian, 2nd grade, and Evelin, 1st grade. Both are our youngest scholars and grew our program to 15 scholars, more than doubled the number of scholars we’ve had since our start in 2009. With a child in almost every grade, we see the progress and promise spanning all age ranges, from their early grade school years to their graduation. This year we also had our second high school graduate. Alex, who has been with us since 2010, became the first among his five other siblings to graduate from high school and aspires to be a physical therapist one day. He is currently exploring college options.
Working with children since their early school years, we see every stage of their development and experience their many joys and achievements, but we also witness their pain. In November, our scholar Ronal, who had been in the program since 2010 when he joined us in the second grade, suffered a tragic accident and passed away. At eleven years old, he dreamed of being a futbolista and loved tending to the garden at Para Dar Esperanza (PADE). He was what Ecuadorians would call a chispa, a spark filled with energy and inquiry who was adored by Lili and the other BECAS scholars. The BECAS family was devastated by this loss and helped Ronal’s family with their grief in the months following his death. To keep his parents’ dream alive of a solid education for their children, BECAS welcomed Ronal’s brother, Luis Eduardo, into the program. He will start with us in this upcoming school year.
BECAS conducted an evaluation of the youth program this year to see how we are doing and what we can do to improve. In one word, youth program scholars described BECAS as “trust,” “friendship,” “myself,” and “family,” and they expressed feeling like they have strong relationships with staff and other scholars and are proud of the work they do. But they also reported that they are not learning new things in the program, an area that BECAS identified as a growth opportunity. To ensure that students continue advancing in their education, BECAS will integrate Khan Academy sessions into programmatic activities for the youth. Khan Academy is a web site that offers free instructional activities and videos on a wide range of subjects, including math, science, technology, and economics. BECAS believes these important tools will help augment the scholars’ classroom instruction and help prepare them for college and other vocational training after graduation.
In programmatic news, BECAS continues to look towards the future in growing the program and further integrating with other organizations in Ecuador. In the spring, BECAS merged with PADE to create a more stable program with additional administrative support and to be able to give our staff benefits like health care and retirement funding. We are excited to have this new partnership and look forward to finding more ways to strengthen and grow both organizations. BECAS is also looking to connect with other social services organizations in Ecuador and the American expatriate community in an effort to find more opportunities for BECAS scholars as well as to support the good work of others in the community.
Finally, with three former BECAS scholars graduating high school, we are pledging to provide financial support to them in their college and/or vocational education. Edith aims to study nursing, William hopes to study cooking and open his own panaderia, and Alex wants to be a physical therapist. BECAS is supporting them as they take their qualifying exams and research their options.
In this year that gave us a range of emotions, from joy and pride to devastation and new hope, we thank you for your continued support. In our seventh year of service in Ecuador we look forward to advancing the progress and dreams of our scholars this next year with your help.
Last fiscal year, BECAS received $15,224 in donations. We spent $12,967 in running the program, 92% went straight to supporting our scholars. The cash balance at the end of the fiscal year was $27,750. We take our commitment to each scholar and his or her family seriously. Towards that end we maintain sufficient cash reserves to ensure that we can continue to provide for the scholars’ educational expenses for up to two years in the event of an unforeseen interruption in our revenue stream.
To support each scholar for one year, with holistic, in-depth interventions that BECAS provides, costs$900. This includes “scholarship” which is the cost of schooling, “health care” including physicals, dental care, glasses, and “Beyond the Barrio” which consists of family support, tutoring, community service, and cultural outings. Our projected university program costs $1,270 per student, this program includes tuition and social services programing.