CoEd Rise Program graduate Claudia broke out of poverty and is on her way to achieving her dreams. Perhaps her most impressive accomplishment to date? Changing her father’s perspective on educating his daughters.

Several months ago we had the privilege of speaking with a graduate of the Rise Youth Development Program: Claudia! Claudia is an incredible young person who has overcome enormous obstacles to finish her education—the kind of obstacles that might have stopped you or I in our tracks. But Claudia refused to accept defeat, and now she is turning her wildest dreams into reality, proving to all of us that we are capable of much more than we believe. It was an honor to hear her story. Get ready to be inspired!

— Courtney, CoEd staff member

Many would say that for Claudia, education wasn’t meant to be. Girls in rural Guatemala do not expect to graduate from high school. Many parents deprioritize education for their daughters, deeming it a waste for a girl who will soon get married and have children.

Many parents deprioritize education for their daughters, deeming it a waste.

The odds were stacked even higher against Claudia, who is the oldest of four sisters. Educating one girl in Guatemala is expensive enough, but educating four is nearly unthinkable for many rural families. Claudia’s father works as a security guard, but refused to contribute a cent toward his daughters’ education, using the money instead on drugs and alcohol. Desiring a better future for her daughters, Claudia’s mother took up an embroidery job so that she could send them to school for as long as possible. At the end of Claudia’s sixth grade year, her mother told her that their financial resources had run out. Though she longed to stay in school, Claudia would have to drop out so that her younger sisters could receive a primary-school education too. Unfortunately, she would be in good company: more than 60 percent of Guatemalan students never make it past the sixth grade. But then, Claudia was selected to receive a sponsorship from Cooperative for Education. She beams, both hands on her cheeks, remembering the day she learned that she would get to stay in school. “At that moment I knew I could achieve my dreams,” she says. She and her mother cried long-deserved tears of happiness.

“At that moment, I knew I could achieve my dreams.”

Claudia made the most of her time in CoEd’s Rise Youth Development Program, participating in workshops and service projects, visiting local businesses and universities, and embracing a support network consisting of her peers, CoEd staff, and her sponsors. Last year, she did the unthinkable, becoming the first in her family to graduate from high school. But her dreams were too big to stop there. Claudia immediately got a job with a real-estate company where she interned during her time in the Rise Program. And soon she plans to enter university to become an auditor. Thanks to people like you who support the Rise Program, Claudia will never have to look her own daughter in the eyes and ask her to drop out of school. And Claudia is not the only one: 90 percent of CoEd Rise Youth Development Program graduates either continue their studies or get a job, enabling them to break the cycle of poverty in their families, too.

Claudia will never have to look her own daughter in the eyes and ask her to drop out of school.

For Claudia’s family, the cycle is already being undone. Her younger sister, Demaris, entered the Rise Program this year and is now studying both accounting and nursing. Her youngest sisters are continuing in primary school, and Claudia has the resources to ensure that they can complete their education too. Best of all, her father has had a change of heart—seeing his daughter thrive in the Rise Program convinced him that education for his daughters is worth it after all, and he is now helping Claudia’s mother to pay for their youngest daughters’ primary-school education. “Please don’t stop supporting us,” Claudia says to CoEd sponsors. “It makes such a difference in our lives.”

Best of all, her father has had a change of heart.

Ready to change another heart?