Seventeen-year-old Werner Álvarez does not quite fit in with the fading paint and muted walls of Tacajalvé Cooperative School, where he attends eighth grade. He is bright and alert. His deep brown eyes light up as he discusses topics he likes to research on the computer. Taken in by his animated demeanor and infectious smile, it is almost easy to forget what a difficult journey it has been for Werner. Almost.
Werner is the seventh of eight children and the first to make it to middle school. Like so many rural Guatemalan families, Werner’s parents never attended school. His father is a farmer and his mother cannot even speak Spanish, only the indigenous language of the Quetzaltenango region. Poverty has separated his family—four of Werner’s siblings now live in the United States, searching for opportunities to help those they left back home.
With his parents’ limited income, it is unlikely that they will be able to pay for Werner to attend high school next year. Yet his siblings insist that he must continue with his studies, scrimping and saving in the United States—even postponing marriage—so they can support their younger siblings. Werner’s oldest brother encourages him, saying, “You can be someone someday—just keep studying so you can do something with your life.” Werner has taken this message to heart. He wants to become an English teacher. He wants to help his family improve their situation. He wants to make them proud.
Now that CoEd has established a Computer Center at Tacajalvé, Werner is confident in his ability to break the cycle of poverty through education. He took computer classes last year at an academy in town, but after looking at the CoEd computers, Werner declared with wide eyes, “I’ve never seen computers as beautiful as these!” Not only are the CoEd computers equipped with the latest technology and software, but the teacher at the CoEd center is much more knowledgeable than Werner’s previous one. “It’s better here because the teacher actually teaches! In the other academy, the teacher just told us to figure it out. Here, if we have questions, the teacher is patient with us and explains things in different ways and lets us work at it until we all understand.”
This Computer Center has transformed Werner’s future. The technical skills he is learning are crucial for success in continued education, as well as in the workplace. Werner is beaming as he confidently asserts, “I’m going to do it. I’m sure. With God’s help, I can do it.”
Werner’s class recently learned how to use Microsoft Publisher. He is especially excited to use the program for a very important project—making a Mother’s Day card. “I want to thank my mom for all of the sacrifices she has made for me and my siblings over the years.” With the help of the CoEd Computer Center, his family’s hard work and dedication will not be in vain. Werner has already made them proud in so many ways, and this is only the beginning of a very bright future.