Rosa Elena Jacinto: A Feed the Hungry success story
by Joan Mitchell
In many ways, Rosa Elena is a typical 17-year-old girl in the village of Los Ricos de Abajo, near Atotonilco. She lives at home with her mother, her sisters (age 27 and 11), and a little nephew.
But in some other ways, she is not typical at all. When she finished the secundaria (junior high school) in Atotonilco, she made the decision to go on to the preparatoria (the three years of high school necessary to go on to higher education), which none of her siblings before her had done. However, Rosie decided that she wanted to go to the Preparatoria El Pípila in San Miguel, rather than to SABES, the prepa much nearer to her home and which most, if not all, of her classmates would attend. This meant that she would hardly ever see her girlfriends, would need to get up at 5am, travel for an hour and a half by bus and on foot, be at school from 7am until 2pm, then reverse the commute, returning to her home around 4pm each day — to start on her homework.
When I asked her why she chose this difficult path, she explained that her mom had gone to El Pípila to investigate their offerings, and declared it an excellent school for Rosie. But there was another important factor at work here, too. When Rosie was in the fifth grade at the Los Ricos de Abajo primaria (primary school), Feed the Hungry San Miguel built and opened a kitchen at her school. This meant that for the first time, every student there would be served a hot, nutritious meal every school day. At almost the same time, a pilot program (now a fully affiliated program) to teach English, once a week for three months, was developed by Feed the Hungry volunteers (the Los Ricos English & Scholarship Program). And most importantly for Rosie, it meant that the program would provide financial assistance necessary for any Los Ricos student to continue beyond that school into the secundaria and possibly the preparatoria.
Rosie says that without these incentives, she would have not even thought about the preparatoria. Rosie is certainly a success story within her own family, and the very first student to graduate from a preparatoria with the assistance of Feed the Hungry volunteers. Her own persistence, constant support from Los Ricos school principal, Lucha Jimenez Rodriguez, and Feed the Hungry volunteers enabled Rosie to arrive proudly at the Parroquia on July 6, wearing her cap and gown, to receive her diploma.
The challenges she’s tackled have been tough ones; her course loads at El Pípila were daunting; she’d never played a competitive sport before El Pípila , but was chosen for the girls’ soccer team there, which won the Guanajuato state championship, and then ended up in fourth place nationally. Somewhere in there she managed to compete for the title of Reina del Campesino, and won this honor, too. When I asked her if she enjoyed being competitive, her shy smile was accompanied by a quick “Yes!” response.