This Changemaker Founded a School That’s Helping Nicaragua Move Forward

In a country where primary and secondary education lacks quality and attention, we found Escuela Adelante (meaning “Moving Forward” in Spanish) too inspiring and important to not share. We had the pleasure to meet and sit down with co-founder and director Jaime Hunter in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua where the school is currently located.

Jaime (center) with some of the Escuela Adelante family

Jaime, born and raised in the US and an English major, arrived in Nicaragua in 2010 as a volunteer for a project that offers free supplementary schooling in a disadvantaged local community; she taught there for 2 years and eventually got the opportunity to run the project as a Director of Operations. Things followed their natural course and eventually Jaime moved on and started to teach English on her own. She often used the town’s public library as a classroom and offered free classes once per week. With some time and patience, more and more kids and adults became interested in coming to her classes and soon after Jaime became an established presence in town.

Then in 2013 Jaime met Carrie Valladares, a lawyer at Microsoft in Seattle looking to invest in a schooling project; thus, together Carrie and Jaime joined forces and decided to create a bilingual school based on high quality, alternative education in town. Hard work ensued and not long after Escuela Adelante was taking its first steps, with 40 local families in tow!

Coloring time!

The idea behind the school is to immerse all learners in a bilingual, multicultural environment, to offer bilingual preschool, several levels of coursework for elementary-aged students, and adult classes. 
The student-centered model is inspired from the Montessori and Freinet educational approach: the student is responsible for learning and is encouraged to operate in autonomy while the instructor is responsible for facilitating the learning. The classroom operates through collaboration, often using project-based learning to facilitate lessons. Monthly themes are used to guide study and themes span a broad range of topics, from body, healthy, nutrition to the environment, local folklore, the world and the universe.

Local and foreign kids attend Escuela Adelante in San Juan del Sur

Escuela Adelante began to grow and Jaime was more than happy to recruit local teachers and welcome more students. Today Escuela Adelante has 10 local staff members including teachers and 166 children ages 18 months to 13 years old, and approximately 60 adults.

The school is non-profit and the tuition model is designed to align tuition cost with the proportional impact of the fee against a family’s financial resources. Some families with a very tight budget are able to send their children for free. Jaime and her team believe all children deserve an excellent education, regardless of their economic status.

What’s coming next?

Escuela Adelante has purchased land in the surrounding areas of San Juan Del Sur so that it can be expanded and quality education can reach more students; with this expansion comes a vision to build a farm, a vegetable patch, a mechanic shop, a science lab and a library.

When Jaime arrived in Nicaragua in 2010, she had no idea she would still be here 7 years later, as the co-founder of a school! And now hand in hand with Carrie, they have a strong strategic plan to continue to make it grow.

One of many Escuela Adelante’s classrooms

In a town where many tourists pass through and others stay for good, Jaime’s values and vision are desperately needed: the wealth gap in San Juan del Sur has gotten scarily and increasingly wider these past years, eroding the sense of community and creating cultural and social animosity in the former peaceful fishing village. Jaime’s story is a good example of how a foreigner — with a good knowledge of the local culture, a deep wish for the well-being of the community and an entrepreneurial mindset — has been able to set up a project that unites a community and leverages cultural diversity.

Jaime has confided that although it hasn’t been easy to run a project of this magnitude with enormous potential to drive change and transform the lives of many, she has always felt it was the right thing to do for the community that has welcomed her with open arms. Her positive mindset and constantly being in motion have been at the forefront to turn ideas into tangible results, and others who share her vision have seen this. Now more and more people are trying to support Escuela Adelante in one way or another.

Way to go Escuela Adelante!

If you wish to support Jaime and her noble endeavour:

  • Share this story with your network.
  • Make a donation. Any amount will go a long way and will be received with gratitude.
  • If you are relocating to San Juan del Sur with your children, you can contact Jaime here and discuss your kids’ education.

Kind regards,

Thomas & Ruth

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