Friday, January 4, 2008

A Drive to Succeed

Posted on behalf of Deron Denton

Receiving a formal education simply isn’t feasible for many Ecuadorian youth living in desperate poverty. Their families either can’t afford supplies, uniforms and tuition costs, or the children must lend a hand in providing for the basic needs of the family.

That’s why a graduation ceremony held at the Simon Bolivar Technical Institute in Guayaquil, Ecuador, was celebrated with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm. Amid an emotionally charged atmosphere, 132 sponsored youth received hard-earned vocational certifications.

One of the stars of the evening was 17-year-old Alexandra Baque, a youth sponsored since the age of 9.

Getting in Gear

Despite being the only girl in a class of 56, Alexandra graduated at the top of her Auto Mechanics course. In addition to completing her coursework, Alexandra had to handle another obstacle: her male classmates’ bias against having a girl in the class. Their attitudes became so bad that Alexandra had to take the matter into her own hands.

Soon after the course began, Alexandra reported, one of the students “told me something rude because I was the only woman, and then I reacted.” It was good for the bully that he relented when he did: Alexandra, at just 4’ 10”, has trained in self-defense nearly her whole life.

“I have practiced karate since I was 4,” said Alexandra, grinning. Although it took two months (and a ninja-style warning) to earn her classmates’ respect, she did earn it. Shortly after that incident, she says, “I earned a lot of respect and became the leader of my group.”


If her classmates knew Alexandra better, they would have known she would not be easily sidetracked from her dream. Ever since she was little, Alexandra preferred playing with her younger brother Luis’ toy cars rather than with her own dolls. Much to Luis’ dismay, Alexandra took the cars apart and reassembled them, designing her own small vehicles from the dismantled parts.

She also credits her father with having inspired her interest in machinery. “When I was 13,” she said, “I helped my dad disassemble a piece of industrial machinery, and that really sparked my interest.”

With her own high school graduation approaching, Alexandra began taking a serious look at what she wanted to do for a living. Initially, she looked into taking vocational classes offered by Ecuador’s largest cement manufacturer – Cemento Nacional. One benefit would have been an increased opportunity to work for the company upon graduation.

Alexandra’s mother strongly discouraged this, fearing her daughter’s mistreatment in such a male-dominated atmosphere. Despite fulfilling the requirements and submitting all the necessary paperwork, Alexandra had to forego that opportunity. A determined young lady, she wasn’t terribly disappointed by this setback…she insists it strengthened her resolve to find another way to enroll in a vocational education program.

The Final Stretch

It wasn’t long before Alexandra discovered Children International’s scholarship program, now called the HOPE Fund. She was delighted at the possibility of attaining a degree that would allow her to work with cars. She again submitted the paperwork and met all the requirements. This time, Alexandra seized the chance to pursue her dream and wouldn’t let go. No amount of dissuasion from her mother was enough.

Having earned top honors in the Auto Mechanics program, Alexandra’s next goal is to open an auto shop with some of her classmates. She eventually hopes to design her own cars. Luis is likely to forget about the toy cars his older sister “redesigned” if he actually gets to drive an Alexandra Baque automobile.

It’s a pretty awesome goal for a child who, without a little help, would probably be limited to dreaming about far more mundane things. Thanks to sponsorship and programs like the HOPE Fund – and the perseverance of a young lady – it’s a dream no one doubts is possible…at least, no one who knows Alexandra.
For more information about how you can give HOPE to children like Alexandra, click here.


Betsemes said...

I'm a man, and at my country I have to deal with just the opposite; just because I'm a man, people just assume that I'm an innate mechanic. I am not; even more, I'm a complete inept at it. I understand that people are different and the fact that most mechanic-able people are men doesn't mean that women can have the abilities too. I have none in my area, all mechanics are men here; but I have no reserves on saying that I would prefer to bring my car to a woman than a man. That's just me. I've been able to communicate just much easier with the opposite sex than my own sex and find it more confortable.

Betsemes said...

I wrote: "I understand that people are different and the fact that most mechanic-able people are men doesn't mean that women can have the abilities too".
Well, this should read: "and the fact that most mechanic-able people are men doesn't mean that women can't have the abilities too".
I do think that both men and women can be born with aptitudes for this kind of work; but in this case, they show up in men more frequently than in women. Other different aptitudes show up more frequently in women than in men; but it also doesn't mean that they cannot show up in men too.