How Piecitos Colorados Helped a Young Woman Fulfill her Academic Dream
Paraguay was one of the first countries the Prosegur Foundation included in its Development Cooperation program Piecitos Colorados, an initiative to improve the quality of life of children from vulnerable backgrounds in Latin and Central America by providing support for a comprehensive education, based on the principle that schools can be engines of change.
According to UNICEF data, six out of 10 children in Paraguay do not finish high school. Lack of money is the main reason, as is the case with university education, where 10% of students complete their degree program.
The South American country has undertaken significant efforts in recent years to ensure wider access to education but still faces structural challenges such as late entry into the education system, abandonment of studies and a lack of trained teachers. For these reasons, Paraguay was one of the first countries the Prosegur Foundation included in its Development Cooperation program Piecitos Colorados, an initiative to improve the quality of life of children from vulnerable backgrounds in Latin and Central America by providing support for a comprehensive education, based on the principle that schools can be engines of change.
Currently, Piecitos Colorados runs 39 schools in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, benefiting more than 5,400 students like Ruth, the focus of this story: a young Paraguayan woman who has struggled to break down the educational barriers in her country to fulfill her dream of going to university. After taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the project, and thanks to her talent and effort, today she is an example for her community.
Ruth has become a model for other children and young people in her community: when she was still a small child, she would leave her house early each morning, crossing the properties of her neighbors and climbing over the walls that separated them, leaving her neighborhood to attend the Sagrada Familia school, the first Piecitos Colorados educational center in Paraguay.
Located in a region with low levels of educational achievement, the Prosegur Foundation identified this school in 2007 as being committed to education but lacking key resources.
Focused on reducing the digital and educational gap, the initiative has become a key to leaving the past behind and enhancing 21st century skills in students and teachers
Commitment and co-responsibility are two key concepts in the Piecitos Colorados intervention model, which acts as an agent of change, moving away from one-off, welfare-based interventions to emphasize cooperation between families, the educational community and the company. By empowering human capacities and improving the use of environmental resources, the long-term goal is for schools to run themselves and increase their development opportunities.
Focused on reducing the digital and educational gap, the initiative has become a key to leaving the past behind and enhancing 21st century skills in students and teachers, reinforcing the role of education as a lever for change.
EDUCATION, THE GLITTERING PRIZE
Thanks to her motto "I want to, I can", Ruth has joined a community of students who have also struggled to overcome economic, academic and social barriers, and she has become the university student she is today. Her time at Holy Family School was an experience she calls "utterly wonderful". With the mutual support of classmates and teachers, Holy Family was the starting point for addressing her dream of a having a professional career. From there, she was able to access new learning tools and methodologies, which opened her horizons, as she explains:
"Through the Piecitos Colorados program, the Prosegur Foundation has supported the institution, improving the quality of education with numerous workshops and innovative talks that have kept us up to date and helped us grow as people. This has contributed enormously toward me achieving my life-long goal: higher education.”
Thanks to the commitment of teachers and the technological resources provided by Piecitos Colorados, Ruth’s school was able to give students access to information and new teaching methodoligies. On a day-to-day basis, students and teachers have built a culture of collaboration and service with the families, the local education system and Prosegur professionals , involved in the program.
"The use of the latest technologies, the construction of a brand new computer lab and the availability of a team of teachers who have accompanied us along our academic journey have been key elements for all the students who, in my class, were part of the school," says Ruth.
A class that experienced firsthand the evolution of its school, with a focus on new technologies -which led to the development of the Technological Baccalaureate-, or access to educational innovation projects about entrepreneurship, nutritional training or creativity; all initiatives promoted by Piecitos Colorados in alliance with specialist partners, and which always put students front and center, reinforcing their self-esteem so as to enhance their ability to learn.
"These projects gave me a broader perspective on life and allowed me to visualize my dreams," Ruth explains enthusiastically: “We used the expression: “I want to, I can”, which has characterized my academic career, and that I still use today for the goals and objectives I set for myself". She adds that it was during one of these formative talks, where "we sought answers to who we wanted to be and how we could achieve it with the necessary effort and focus. That was one of the days that helped me to start on the path towards the degree program I about to finish: biochemistry."
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
"There are no words to explain the impact on my life and my family of receiving a Prosegur Foundation Talent Scholarship."
After finishing her studies at Sagrada Familia, Ruth was nominated by the school to receive a Piecitos Colorados scholarship for outstanding students, giving them access to technical or university training. She achieved it, not only for her academic excellence but also for her effort, values and her firm commitment to always give her best.
"We come from a humble family and it was going to be difficult to be able to cover the expenses involved in studying for a university degree. I thought a lot before finishing at Sagrada Familia, about working to cover my university studies. However, my good grades turned me into a future university student with real career opportunities," says Ruth.
"It was a very big step for my professional and personal development, because I had the opportunity to do my bit for the society in which I live,” notes Ruth, adding: “During my career I have met hundreds of people who have given me different and important points of view about the kind of professional I want to be.”
Ruth has had the continual support of a Prosegur mentor to accompany and guide her during her university studies. Prosegur Foundation has provided volunteers since the lockdowns imposed during the 2020 pandemic, when the closure of educational centers increased the risk of students with fewer resources having to abandon their studies. Thanks to the support and monitoring of these professionals, the Piecitos Colorados scholarship holders in the six Latin American countries where the initiative is implemented were able to continue with their education during this difficult period.
Ruth is now approaching the end of her studies, and with her mentor she has been readying to enter the world of work. Beyond the purely educational, she highlights the lessons learned on a personal level: "One of the most important things I have learned is to believe in myself. Believing that I can achieve my goals and that I only need to focus on the most positive solution, analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of the situations I face. And at the same time, thinking about how best to overcome life's challenges."
Importantly, Ruth has not forgotten her commitment to the educational community where she grew up. She is now involved in numerous initiatives with her school, volunteering as a kindergarten assistant, leading projects on proper hand hygiene, delivering art workshops and talks on preparing for the future, sharing her experience as a scholarship holder and university student.
Now, at the age of 25, after having been part of an educational community in a region with few opportunities, Ruth has experienced firsthand the transformative power of education. Which is why she wants as many students as possible to know about how Piecitos Colorados can change lives, so that more children can have the same opportunities she has had. "This opportunity not only opens the way to a good education, it also teaches you to be a person who can help your family and society. The fascinating thing about it is that at some point you will look at what you have achieved and the steps you have taken to fulfill your dreams, and you will understand that all that effort is what has allowed you to achieve success."