Melinda Gates once said, “If you want to lift up humanity, empower women.” And that is exactly what the community of Hacienda Maria is doing.

Hacienda Maria students proudly holding their new Microsoft certificates

This year, 18 CoEd Computer Program students from Hacienda Maria earned the Microsoft Office Specialist certification in Excel 2013 Core. Oh, and did we mention that 13 of them were girls?!

With the support of their incredible teachers, parents, and Computer Centers Program staff, these students were the first at any CoEd computer center to take AND pass a test of this magnitude. To reiterate how amazing these students are, many of the young girls scored even higher than many of the teachers who have taken the same test.

One student’s Microsoft Office Specialist certificate

In rural Guatemala where these students live, earning this type of certification as a middle school student is unheard of. In some of the communities that CoEd serves, not a single student has touched a computer before the arrival of the program. Without computer training, these students enter the job market without the same training as their peers and they face unemployment and economic hardship—causing the cycle of poverty to continue another generation.

To make matters worse, girls are not traditionally supported in their desire to go to school. Often, when parents have to decide which child to educate on their meager earnings, they prioritize the boys, and the girls get left behind. In the regions CoEd serve, there is nearly a boy and a half in school for every girl.

These young, rural girls are put at a disadvantage from the start—especially in tech—but in Hacienda Maria, the community is determined to break the mold and build a brighter future for their girls through education.

CoEd’s Computer Program empowers young girls through technological education

Hacienda Maria joined the CoEd Computer Program in 2004. Since then, students at the school have received at least 60 minutes of hands-on computer instruction per week!

To guarantee the program’s sustainability into the future, the student’s families continue to contribute to the revolving fund by paying a small fee for their children to use the computers. This has ensured that Hacienda Maria can purchase new equipment when theirs wears out. In fact, Hacienda Maria has renewed their computer equipment twice since they started the program!

Not only did the community provide new equipment to their own school, they donated their used equipment to other schools in the program that had outdated equipment but hadn’t saved enough money to renew yet!

They didn’t stop there. The school and parents in Hacienda Maria led the initiative to certify their students and paid most of the fee for their students to take the Microsoft Office Specialist exam.

Parents and community members in Hacienda Maria supporting their students

This certification will give these rural middle-schoolers the tools they need to continue their education, secure higher-wage jobs, and permanently raise the standard of living not only for themselves, but for future generations.

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