Have you heard about this idea of ‘grit’? The idea that your success is determined by your passion, perseverance, will, and “stick-to-it-ness” to reach the long-term goal before you?  Recently introduced to grit through Angela Duckworth’s TED talk, we’re fascinated by the idea.

Refresh the page if the video isn’t showing properly or go to the TED.com to view Angela Duckworth’s TED talk.

And so it makes us wonder—is grit the key to breaking out of poverty? After witnessing countless displays of grit from student after student after student in Guatemala, we here at CoEd enthusiastically say, “YES!”  Just look at Ivonne, who is determined to finish high school even though she was orphaned at age seven, forced to leave school to work as a housekeeper, and is now one of the oldest students in her class. Or Roberto, who works all morning in the field before heading to school. Or Abner, who resolved to return to school after dropping out.

Every time we visit Guatemala with volunteers, we return with new stories of the nearly 132,700 students helped by CoEd supporters; schoolchildren who face seemingly insurmountable odds, yet continue to reach for a high school diploma. When talking with these students, they share their grit-filled stories with a startling pragmatism that belies the challenges they’ve faced—as if they never considered the idea that life could be any different.

And so our work continues.

Each time school gets cancelled by teacher strikes, mudslides block the roadways, or a new law negatively impacts the way we provide services, we remember the grit embodied by the students in Guatemala.  Their determination inspires our own. Earlier this month, Malala Day gave international attention to the plight of girls lacking access to education. It reminded us how much work we still have to do to reach the Millennium Development Goals in education.

For all the progress we’ve made to educate students in Guatemala, we still have a very long way to go. As Malala so eloquently put it, “I speak not for myself but so those without a  voice can be heard.” So we—the parents, teachers, students, staff, and donors—will take a cue from Malala and the students of Guatemala. We will dig in, show some grit, and carry on.

What do you think of  grit? Is it the key to breaking the cycle of poverty?