My parents couldn’t give me a high school education. I want my children to get further in life than I have.
-54 year old mother of a scholarship recipient
The Association of Environmental Educators of Cotacachi (ASEAC) was formed in the early 2000s when a group of teachers from Cotacachi’s bilingual (Spanish-Kichwa) community schools began to meet to address some of the unmet needs of teachers and students. A few years later, aided by technical assistance from the Union of Indigenous and Peasant Organizations of Cotacachi (UNORCAC), ASEAC became a legally recognized organization dedicated to the environmental education and scholastic enhancement of Cotacachi’s youth.
The first scholarships were granted a few years later, thanks to the efforts of friends to the organization. These were Claire Nicklin, a consultant on agriculture and environmental development projects in Ecuador, and Barbara Johnson, a Spanish teacher at Shepard Middle School in suburban Chicago. At the time, Claire was working with UNORCAC on a native agro-biodiversity conservation program that tangentially involved the bilingual community schools, and she and Barbara thought that some cross-cultural learning about food, environment and special holidays would benefit students in both Cotacachi and Chicago. A relationship soon formed between the two groups of students as they began to communicate via mail. As the Shepard students learned that some of their friends in Cotacachi might not continue on to high school for lack of financial means, they began to raise money for scholarships, and in 2007 sponsored one year of high school education for four girls from the community of Topo Grande.
Since 2007, the program has grown considerably thanks to the dedication and hard work of the ASEAC Team, numerous Peace Corps volunteers, including Kenji Tabery, Roxanne Lee and Paige Fisher, the continued support of students and friends of Shepard Middle School, and our generous community of local and international donors. Today the scholarship program supports over 60 students and we aim to increase that number every year!!
For more information on the continued support of friends at Shepard Middle School, see: Affiliations