Frequently Asked Questions
Why does PathLight focus on integrating faith with learning?
What is the need you are trying to address?
There are many challenges the Belizean people face. Belize is a low socioeconomic country with few resources. There is a struggle to educate the mainstream population, much less the at‐risk population isolated in rural villages. According to the CIA World Fact Book, approximately 25% of Belize citizens over the age of 15 cannot read and write. Current concerns include an unsustainable foreign debt, high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, growing urban crime, and increasing incidences of HIV/AIDS. Belize struggles with a significant lack of trained teachers. In the rural primary schools it is not unusual for many of the teachers to have only a high school education. Although the government recognizes this as a problem and is working to address it, the fact remains that many the rural staff members have limited formal training as educators. We believe education can help address the country’s needs and break the cycle of poverty.
How do I know my involvement is making a difference?
Not long after we started our program in Belize we received this note from the local Peace Corps volunteer regarding one of our sponsored students: “Last week I was walking back from the main store in Armenia and I saw one of the High School Scholarship recipients, Concepciona. I flagged her down and we walked together toward our homes. I asked her how everything was going. Her face completely lit up and she talked a mile a minute about how great school is, how excited she is to be sending emails to her friends in other villages she never gets to see, and how much fun she is having. I’ve known Concepciona for over a year and a half. She is exceptionally shy, quiet, and reserved. The person who was talking to me as we were walking was nothing like the Concepciona I knew before. She didn’t stop talking, it seemed like her self-confidence had sky-rocketed, and she was walking with her head up (instead of directly on the ground in front of her).” Through PathLight Concepciona not only went to high school, but also earned a degree at the University of Belize.
Thankfully, at PathLight there are many stories like Concepciona’s. But we’re not content with stories and anecdotal proof that our holistic model works (as wonderful as those stories are). So it is that we have begun collecting quantitative and qualitative data from students, teachers, administrators, parents, and community leaders to learn how we’re doing in fulfilling our mission. The results of this data can be seen in our update reports emailed quarterly (sign up below to be added to our email list) and this data is guiding us in improving our programs and delivery of services. And, of course, helping us listen to our friends and partners in Belize.
What can I do to help from the States?
How does PathLight select students for Sponsorship+?
Every year more students apply for our sponsorship program than we’re able to accept. The challenge is to select from these students those who not only have the financial need but who are also likely to succeed within our program. Just as our sponsorship program is holistic in trying to build the student up academically, socially, emotionally and spiritually, our selection process is designed to assess the whole child, not just one set of test scores. The factors that enable a student to be successful in high school include academic preparation, motivation and the support of parents.
In the spring we invite Standard Six, (or Eighth Grade) students to apply for our program. In the application the student provides basic information about their family and they write a short essay explaining why they want to go to high school and how they will use that opportunity to serve their family and community. Once the student has been selected for an interview, the applicant is interviewed by several members of our PathLight staff in Belize. We enjoy this opportunity to get to know the students on a personal level and this begins our long-term, personal relationship with those who become PathLight students.
Next, the students take the Primary School Exam (PSE), a two day comprehensive exam that is used to determine if a student is eligible for high school. We consider PSE scores, along with report cards as an objective way to evaluate if the student is academically prepared to enter high school. In addition, we look for recommendations from classroom teachers and principals at the primary schools. The teachers and principals are able to give us information about the student’s attitude, motivation, classroom performance and often some insight into the financial situation of their families.
We prayerfully select the students into the final round of selection and then visit their homes to speak to their parents. We have found that if the student does not have the strong support of their family, especially their parents, they are far less likely to be successful for the long run of high school. The home visit also gives us an opportunity to clarify to the student and their parents that we are a Christian organization and that while we don’t require a student be a Christian to be accepted, we will be teaching them about spiritual matters. After the home visit, we make our final selections, students and parents sign a letter of acceptance and we are off and running and looking look forward to four great years of high school – and hopefully four more years of college!
Why does PathLight provide sponsorships for vocational training?
PathLight partners with two high schools and we always appreciate their perspective on educational issues in Belize. One of the ideas that both principals have consistently stressed is the need for vocational training; in fact, they dream of building more of it into their own school curriculum. It makes sense for two reasons. First, while Belize certainly needs more people with academic degrees (such as doctors, engineers and teachers) Belize also needs men and women who are skilled at various trades. Second, many students simply have a passion for practical, marketable vocational skills. For some the “joy of cooking” or the satisfaction of repairing a car exceeds their desire to understand more about biology or physics. When we suggested the possibility of vocational school to our high school graduates, a large number chose this opportunity above going to University.
One of the benefits that we see with this vocational option within the Sponsorship+ Program is that it will give our students greater freedom to pursue their dreams. Up to now the only path we offered was an academic one. Since our desire is for students to return to their home villages to “make a difference” we also appreciate the fact that many of the vocational trades can be done “locally”, that is, the student will not have to move to San Ignacio or Belize City in order to find a job. Ultimately, we expect this move to result in a greater number of our students finding employment, enjoying their vocation, and having an impact on their local community.
An added benefit: Jaguar Creek, the sister organization to PathLight, is one vocational option for our graduates. The skills needed at Jaguar Creek include cooking, hospitality, office administration, electrical wiring and construction, the very things that our students will be learning in vocational training. We’re excited that we already have two PathLight students employed by Jaguar Creek!
Is a financial gift to PathLight tax deductible?
Yes! PathLight is a registered 501c3 non-profit organization. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Please check with your tax advisor or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for more information regarding the tax deductability of your donation.