Global Service Scholar: Sergio Cervantes
Country: Paraguay

Working at Fundación Paraguaya and being amongst students at the Escuela Agricola Cerrito has been one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve met so many amazing people and have experienced what real compassion looks like. I started my journey with a humble mindset as I did not know what was to come. I initially thought we would be doing the typical “service” of building things and bringing a community together to get a project finished. I thought we would be working more on the farm side and getting a feel of how rural life can be. With the expectation of being just another story of “voluntourism”, I didn’t think my time there would make a huge impact. Oh, how I was so wrong about it all.

While at the Escuela Agricola Cerrito, I was able to be work with a few objectives for our group “Give 1.” Being a part of “Give 1”, I had to assess the students’ academic level by creating a test to understand how ready for University the seniors were. During the process of trying to create the test, I had to interview students on career goals. With the responses given to us, we then were able to consult local University professors from schools such as, Universidad Nacional de Asunción and Universidad de San Carlos for material. Thanks to the high school professors who had connections within these respected Universities we were able to get testing material for the certain majors the students wanted to pursue. From there the test came about and we were able track down results. Although this just seems like a normal assessment for evidence, it was something much bigger than that.

Throughout the process of creating the test and trying to complete the certain objectives for our group, we were able to interact with students one on one. From our interviews, to even the information technology club, and critical thinking game for our “Give 1” group, we gained valuable knowledge of who these kids were. These kids are full of passion, excitement, and fire to learn so much. They were possibly one of the brightest and most energized kids I ever got to have the chance of knowing. Their passion for wanting to grow and learn even more is inspirational and somewhat a good reminder of why I am a college student today.

The Escuela Agricola Cerrito enables these children to surpass expectations of what a high school kid is. These are young adults who really are striving to better themselves and to be well equipped in various different fields. These students hone on many different skills such as: caring for livestock, working in fields to produce vegetables, working in a cheese factory to produce various amounts of cheeses, how to run a hotel, and how to construct a business plan to bring in all this type of work together. These are just blanket terms for what these youth are capable of doing.

As mentioned before our work at the school was bigger than just another group of students completing a project. Understanding the pressure these kids are under to succeed made me realize how important our work really is. By creating this baseline, and adding evidence and tangible results, we are able to give these children a direct path to success. These kids go through many hurdles. The work I was able to be a part of will shift these students to focus on areas they might want to work on a little more. Pure blissfulness came over me after publishing results and showing everyone what can be done further to help these children get to their dreams. Seeing how the research I did will bring upon a few adjustments to really maximize student’s effort in achieving their dreams brings a huge smile to my face. This is only the start of what can be done to help these students gain an even stronger foundation that they already have.

By communicating with these students one on one, I was able to receive unmasked compassion from them. Being a foreigner and coming into these students’ lives can be hard. Yet, the way these students opened up and welcomed us into their lives was very heartfelt. Through the whole process of working with these students, and working with Martín Burt of Fundación Paraguaya, I was able to better understand real grit and work. I was able to apply research in a constructive way to help students grasp their academic goals.

No one is nicer then the people of Paraguay. Seeing how these students work together, and what real compassion and love looks like, I am able to adjust my life. Compassion was a major theme of understanding prior to our work in Paraguay. After leaving Paraguay, I now understand that the Escuela Agricola is a prime example of compassion. My whole take away from Paraguay is that “real hard work and a positive attitude can go a long way.” I thank everyone at the school, along with Fundación Paraguaya, for this amazing experience.