Current employment: Economic development consultant
to Get Where You Need to Go?
“In the rainy season, the river would rise by as much as fifteen feet. During one very wet year, my sister, my cousin, and I missed months of classes because it was impossible to cross the river to get to school.”
Fernando grew up in a remote settlement, nineteen miles of dirt road away from the closest village. Although the local elementary school was fairly close to his home, Fernando and his siblings had to ford a river on horseback to reach it. This was manageable when the weather was good, but during Guatemala’s rainy season—May through October—the river would rise, sometimes making this an impossible task. Attending secondary school was even more of a challenge. The closest public high school was thirteen miles away, but there were no paved roads in that direction. The next nearest option was a private school in Esquipulas, four hours away. It was clear that getting an education would demand a great sacrifice, and at the age of fourteen, Fernando left home and lived alone so he could go to school.
“My main goal is to show these students that they have more options in life.”
After graduating from Universidad Francisco Marroquín, Fernando worked in the private sector for five years before accepting a job with a Guatemalan government program that aims to increase the competitiveness of local businesses. When he started, he inherited a nearly bankrupt program that had spent a great deal of money and had little to show for it. Today Fernando’s efforts at the agency are directed not at distributing money, but at information exchange. He identifies opportunities for growth and helps connect local businesspeople with sources of private investment.
Like all ITA graduates, Fernando is always on the lookout to encourage others to get a good education. Recently, three students from his hometown received scholarships for tuition at a private school in a distant town, but they had no way to pay for living expenses, so Fernando covered these costs. He keeps in close touch with other ITA graduates. Together they are working on a program to provide scholarships to students who excel in elementary school but who cannot access private middle and high schools because of financial or geographic constraints.