Below is an interview with CasaSito university and work-study scholar, Hector Chocoy. In 2013, Hector was accepted into our Youth Development Program in Antigua. The interview was conducted and translated by Communications & Development Coordinator, Marissa Loterina.
Tell me about you and your family.
I’m the youngest child of four. My dad is a builder and my mom is a housewife. I’m the only one in my family to complete high school and now study at university. My two older brothers finished 6th grade and my older sister graduated only from middle school. I’m proud that I’m continuing with my education. My parents, particularly my mom, supported us with our studies but my siblings decided not to continue. They [my siblings] used to tease me because I’m the youngest yet I’m the one who is studying at university.
I did not pass my first year of middle school. I got a job working at a mechanic shop, even though my mom really wanted me to study. But after two months I fractured my spine from all the hard labor. After going to the doctor, I was told to quit. So I did, and returned to school. I put more effort into my studies and with my mom’s encouragement and support I passed the year. I finished middle school with an 86 grade point average.
How did you find out about CasaSito?
Some of my friends heard about CasaSito and the opportunity to apply for a scholarship. I visited the office to get more information and Salvador (current Monitoring & Evaluation Officer) received me. I had missed a mandatory meeting, but he told me he would let the staff know I was interested. I was so happy when they called me and invited me to attend a follow-up meeting. At that meeting, they told me all about the different clubs, activities, and everything about the Youth Development Program.
What encouraged you to apply?
The different requirements were overwhelming for me and left me discouraged. My dad thought it best I spent my time with other things instead of the mandatory activities. But three reasons made me want to apply, one my mom. She wanted me to continue studying. Second, I wanted to continue studying. Third, I wanted to find a stable job and not have to participate in informal labor. I knew with an education, I would have a chance.
How did you feel when you joined the YDP?
I felt great! I remember when I attended the first meeting with all the new scholars. I thought about all the negative things people had said trying to discourage me from studying. But sitting in that room with nine other first year high school scholars, I felt a rise in my confidence and self-esteem. I proved to everyone including myself that I could receive a scholarship, continue studying, and be successful.
What has been your experience as a high school scholar vs. as a university scholar?
As a high school scholar, I received more workshops that strengthened my abilities and skills. Those workshops helped us build our self-esteem and confidence so we could believe in ourselves and achieve our goals. As a university scholar, I have more independence and responsibility. I have to set a good example for the younger scholars.
Have you been able to apply your high school degree to your university degree?
Some of my classmates have said that our high school degrees do not have anything to do with our university degrees. However, I believe that my computer technology degree prepared me for my university degree in graphic design. I understand computer hardware, which is important since I am dependent on a computer for my assignments.
Do you think CasaSito prepared you for university?
Yes, all scholars graduating from high school attend Mentoring club, which is led by CasaSito university scholars. In the club, we discuss grading systems, university environment, types of people, professors and their teaching techniques, time management, financial planning, and working. Those scholars advised me on each of those topics. I think without Mentoring club, I would not have been prepared for university.
What was your favorite club and/or activity?
Art club. Last year, I learned a different technique where we drew the shadows of still life objects.
What have you learned about yourself since becoming a CasaSito scholar?
CasaSito gave me the tools I needed to learn about my own strengths and weaknesses. I learned about the skills that I had and the ones I did not have. Most importantly, I have learned how to express myself with others. I always had a difficult time sharing my thoughts, especially with my family. I was scared they would judge me or make fun of me so I kept my thoughts to myself. But now I can express myself without fear or embarrassment.
You have been a work-study scholar for a year and a half. Do you think this experience has prepared you for what is to come when you enter the workforce?
It has been good because I have different responsibilities. This year, I supervised Debate club. It was a lot of responsibility, especially with logistics. I also developed a level of professionalism as now I am an example for the younger scholars. I have seen my personal growth and the development of my skills and abilities. I know I can manage my time and responsibilities in order to meet deadlines in a busy work environment.
If you weren’t studying right now, what do you think you would be doing?
I would be working. After finishing high school, I considered applying for a job at the supermarket Bodegona. I’m happy I received a university scholarship and a work-study position at CasaSito.
What advice do you have for youth?
There are problems in life, as well as negative people that put up barriers to prevent you from achieving your goals, but my advice is to keep moving forward and believe in yourselves.
Hector is studying graphic design at Universidad Da Vinci in Antigua. As the work-study scholar, he assists with banking procedures, payments, purchases, assists with logistics, coordinates events, and provides other office support. When he’s not busy studying or working, he enjoy spending time with his friends and classmates. One of Hector’s dreams is to become a web page designer.