One’s power is greatest exercised in servant leadership.
- Graham Davis
First, we fund the cost of a university program. This is the “easy” part. Once students are accepted to their programs of choice, Advance Panama covers tuition and other school expenses while encouraging each student in their educational journey. Each student must choose an academic career that is challenging, technical, and in-demand in the job market and attend a university with an outstanding reputation. As we strongly promote expertise in one’s field, masters and doctoral degrees are also encouraged and covered in our program. Because of poverty’s stronghold, simply funding tuition is not enough. Students cannot afford the bus ride to attend class or food to keep from passing out. Some students live so far off the grid they literally need to cross rivers to get into town. This necessitates the need for some student housing closer to school. Other expenses we cover include but are not limited to: WiFi/connectivity, medical expenses, security, and data for communication for this dangerous and treacherous daily life in the mountains. We do what it takes for our students to perform their best. Financial support is individualized based on actual needs. We provide what is needed for our students to succeed and thrive.
We partner with each student individually and intentionally, giving them permission and vision to dream big. By nature of growing up in poverty, the average individual in rural Panama has learned to have low expectations for their future. In many ways, our students are no different. Through one-on-one friendships with each of our students, we better understand the real struggles they are dealing with in their unique situations. As we learn about these struggles, we seek to alleviate stress and guide them through difficulties. By personally mentoring each student throughout his or her university career, we are able to instill the principles of leadership, excellence, and integrity at the highest level. As we grow in personal friendship with our students, we not only walk with them in their day-to-day problems of life, but we also encourage them to rise above their past and dream big for their future. Part of our process is for each student to replicate themselves, mentoring the students who come in after them.
While each student is expected to maintain excellent academic performance, they are also expected to commit themselves to personal development and improvement, and each student signs a code of conduct. We lead our students from the start, championing them to take ownership and set their own high personal goals. Then they are better motivated to maintain the high minimum GPA and maintain personal integrity which they themselves have set. The leadership model we follow is that of Jesus, whose focus was always on loving the marginalized, serving instead of receiving, and investing in personal relationships.
Over the course of their program, each student completes our leadership training program and puts its principles into practice during their time with Advance Panama. Some things included are: attendance/implementing leadership at monthly leadership seminars and book discussion groups. These activities are mandatory parts of our program. They provide real skills that are necessary to be a strong, competent leader in today’s world. We also encourage students to interact with our network of reputable professionals, businesses, and organizations to further expose our students to living examples of excellent leadership and professionalism. Lastly, we support our students in their pursuit of internships and volunteer opportunities by providing career counseling and training for interviews, CVs, and professional etiquette.
Each student is expected to make learning English a priority in their lives. We partner students with a personal English tutor, frequently a volunteer from the community, to work through our English curriculum. All tutors are native English speakers. At the end of their four years with us, we aim for each student to confidently read, speak, and write English well enough to use in professional and social settings.
Without any safety net or assurance of being able to go to college, still Abdiel jumped off the proverbial cliff and applied. As an honors high school student, his consistency and hard work made an impression on everyone who came in contact with him. This has continued into his college career as he excels in software development. Abdiel is in his third year, and continues to work part-time helping his parents support their large family while going to school. Abdiel is the first person in his family to go to college and hopes to work for Ford Motor Company.