The Importance of Education: Lessons Learned in a Belize Village

Editor’s Note: DC Action for Children is pleased to welcome Alexander Roche, our 2013 summer Education Pioneers Fellow.

Thomas Jefferson once said: “Man is an imitative animal. This quality is the germ of all education in him. From his cradle to his grave he is learning to do what he sees others do.” (1782)

The truth of this quote came to life during my service in the U.S. Peace Corps. At the beginning of my service, I asked my country director: “How is it that some communities seem to experience perpetual poverty?” Simplifying the issue, he explained that it stems from the severe lack of education and opportunity. This seemed so obvious. Yet if it is so obvious, then why are poverty and lack of opportunity still so prevalent?

As inventive as humans are, the vast majority of our actions are learned behaviors. After spending several months in a Belize village, I was able to understand how many of the villagers were stuck in poverty. Despite working their hardest, many did not have the education necessary to pull themselves out of poverty. Realizing this inspired me to help create opportunity for my newly made friends and adoptive family. While working tirelessly to help my village increase economic opportunities and reduce poverty, it was nearly impossible to figure out an effective solution. I did not have the luxury of referencing a database or opening a filing cabinet to learn what has and has not worked. Our village was lacking usable data.

                                                 Pictured Above: a Belize Postal Office

Eventually the villagers and I derived several solutions to help the village by forming cooperatives, starting youth training programs and securing grants to expand the local park staff. Even so, I could not stop thinking about the importance of having access to good data and being able to analyze it. I am proud of my achievements during my service, but I know I could have achieved more if I’d had access to usable data.

This is exactly what has brought me to DC Action for Children.

DC Action for Children understands the importance of analyzing and synthesizing data in order to advocate effective policy.     

As a summer Education Pioneers Fellow, I’m one of more than 60 fellows in D.C. and 400 fellows nationwide working with partner organizations to help improve America’s education system, while broadening our understanding of it. I look forward to researching how chronic absenteeism affects DC’s youth.   

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