Q. Roo language school using crowdfunder to keep programs going

Sophie, English teacher from the UK, with Aaron, local student.

FELIPE CARRILLO PUERTO, Q. Roo — An innovative five-year-old language school in Felipe Carrillo Puerto has embarked on an online holiday fundraising campaign that it hopes will allow it to continue its English and Spanish programs without raising students’ costs.

The Na’atik school (the word means “We understand each other” in Mayan) aims to collect at least USD$1,500 by Dec. 31 to continue teaching English to local youths and Spanish to expats and foreign students who come to Quintana Roo for an immersion program of up to 16 weeks.

While the school tries to keep costs as low as possible, many local families still can’t afford the luxury of additional education. In the colorful town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto—near some of the most stunning beach resorts in the world—more than 70 percent of the population lives in poverty. It’s for this reason that the school began the Maya Youth Project scholarship program.

Sophie, English teacher from the UK, with Aaron,  local student.
Sophie, English teacher from the UK, with Aaron, local student.

When students are accepted into the MY Project, both they and their parents commit to regular attendance and hard work. In turn, Na’atik provides academic support and a nurturing space for students to learn. Small class sizes ensure that kids who might otherwise fall through the cracks have the extra attention they deserve.

“If we see a student struggling with schoolwork or with outside issues, we do everything in our power to keep him or her on track,” said Poppy Damon, the school’s communication officer. “Our promise to our donors is that when you commit to supporting a child financially, we passionately commit to supporting that child both academically and emotionally.”

Students in the Spanish and Mayan programs come from one week to four months, and live with a local family, eating three meals a day with them. During this time, students have 18 hours a week of immersive language classes. The program costs USD$599 for the first week and USD$549 for all additional weeks. “The best part is that our study abroad program helps to subsidize costs for local students,” Damon said.

The reasons people come to learn Spanish and Maya are varied. “We have a lot of people come to study who work with disadvantaged latino youth in the states in different capacities. We have also had a judge, a politician, doctors, and in January we are being joined by a Roman Catholic priest,” Damon said.

Jimmy Tarlau, state delegate in Maryland (Spanish student) with Doña Hilaria and Lupita, his temporary homestay family. Tarlau came to study Spanish which is the first language of many of his constituents.
student in class
Kelly, study abroad student from Brooklyn, in class with Pedro Esquivel Puc, the school´s co-founder.

School history 

Na’atik Language and Cultural Institute was founded by Catherine Gray (now dual citizen US/Mexico) and her Mexican-Maya husband Pedro Esquivel Puc in 2010. After working in the non-profit sector in Seattle, Catherine traveled to Felipe Carrillo Puerto in 1996 to volunteer for a local charity. She began teaching English there, returned to Seattle to get certified in teaching English as a Second Language, and returned to Carrillo, where she later married Esquivel.

The crowdfunder 

This holiday season the school needs USD$1,500 to continue its work without raising costs for students. As a registered 501c3 charity, donations are tax deductible. More information about the school and how to donate can be found at www.naatikmexico.org

By Robert Adams for TYT







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