A Tusculum College student’s service trip to Belize this summer has inspired the creation of a scholarship fund to give youth in the Central American country the opportunity to go school.
Boazin Katina, a senior education major, taught at the Faith Nazarene School in San Ignacio this summer, which serves grades one through six. As part of his service project, he was provided $250 to give to the school in some way. Although the school’s principal suggested using the money for a sign, Katina wanted to use it in some way to help the students and decided to create a scholarship fund instead.
“I wanted to do something that would help the kids,” he related during a presentation Thursday about his project, explaining that many students’ families had to pay tuition for their children to attend the school. While there are some government-operated schools in Belize, most are church-sponsored, private schools.
While at the school, Katina said he asked students about their aspirations and replies ranged from lawyer to homemaker to even American football player. “They have dreams,” he said. “The way for them to realize their dreams is to have an education.”
He explained that once students in Belize reach the sixth grade they take an exam to determine if they can go what is referred to in that country as “college,” but is comparable to an American high school. The government provides scholarships for students who make a high enough score to continue their education but don’t have the resources to do so.
Katina is seeking additional support for the scholarship fund and has set up an account here to accept donations. It takes $200 in American currency to sponsor a child in school for a year in Belize, he said.
In addition to an avenue for Tusculum College students and those in the community to get involved in the project, the scholarship also provides a way for service to the school to continue and not be confined to just a summer service project, he said. Perhaps in the future, the scholarship can grow to give students assistance throughout their educational careers, Katina continued, and perhaps bring them to Tusculum to attend college.
Katina’s trip to Belize was coordinated with the ProBelize organization, which includes education as part of its mission to help improve the lives of those in the country. The education component was one reason he chose the organization, which provided the $250 to Katina for use during his service project. He chose Belize as a destination partly because of the fact that it is a Third World country and he is from a Third World country in Africa. “Being from a Third World country, I felt I would be familiar with the challenges the school would be facing.”
He did face some adjustments in traveling to Belize because he has lived in the United States for the past several years. Katina became a naturalized U.S. citizen earlier this year.
The climate was warmer than even what he had known in Africa, he said. In the schools, there was no air conditioning. “There was one fan directed on the teacher, which didn’t seem fair,” he said.
Students and teachers face many challenges, Katina said. Classes of around 30 students are crowded into small classrooms with one teacher, he continued, and there are no special education teachers. He recalled that there was one student in a wheelchair who had to be carried up to the classroom on the second floor because the building was not handicapped accessible.
Teachers and students also had no textbooks. “If a person teaches algebra, he must do it from the top of his head,” he said.
Grading exams takes much work for the teachers, since they don’t have standardized tests and answer sheets that can be scanned, he said. Katina helped teach during the last two weeks in the academic year.
The people in Belize were friendly and helpful to him, he said. He lived with a host family during his stay. The trip afforded him the opportunity to see a different side of the country than what is shown in tourism brochures. He recalled that another student volunteer left after two days at the school because she was frustrated that it was not the Belize she had seen in brochures and on television.
Another of Katina’s goals as a follow-up to the trip is to establish a pen-pal program between members of the Greeneville-Greene County Boys and Girls Club and students at the Saint Nazarene School. The program would be a good way for the students in both countries to learn about each other and their cultural differences, he explained.. Katina had a pen pal from England when he was a student and enjoyed their exchanges and what he learned of a different culture.
Although the students in Belize were very westernized, Katina said, there are some differences in how they view races and cultures from how it is viewed in the United States. Leaving the school was sad, he said. “Students would tell me to ‘remember me’ or ‘don’t forget about me,’” he recalled.
Katina’s service project was funded by an annual award provided by the college’s Warren W. Hobbie Center and Center for Civic Advancement. Those who would like to give towards the scholarship are asked to make a check out to “Tusculum College” with “Belize Scholarship” in the memo line and send it to the Center for Civic Advancement, P. O. Box 5041, Greeneville, TN 37743.
Proposals are being accepted through Oct. 30 for the $1,500 award for an in-depth, independent civic service project. Any Tusculum College student who meets the service-learning pre-requisites and enrolls in SVLN 450 is eligible for the award. The project must be done within one year of the receipt of the funds.
The written proposals must include a description of the project, explanation of the community need to be addressed, details of how the community need was identified, a time line and budget, a plan for reflection, identification of community and faculty mentors and description of the goals of the project and the intended outcome, outlining how it will benefit both the student and community. Proposals must be sent electronically to Dr. Angela Keaton at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any questions about the process and award can be sent to Dr. Keaton as well.