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Last modified: Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Have a laugh, support education in Guatemala

School of Education group kicks off fundraising for program to help teachers in Central America

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2008

On Saturday night (March 29) you can help global education by taking in a comedy act. Most of the proceeds from Saturday's "Comedy Caravan" at Bear's Place, 1316 E. 3rd St. in Bloomington, will go toward supporting Indiana University School of Education students participating in the second International School Psychology Practicum in Guatemala this summer.

IU school psychology graduate students go to a Guatemalan school for two weeks where they will provide professional development seminars and intervention services to teachers and students.

Guatemala Students

Rebecca Martinez writes on the board during a lesson at Agua Viva in 2006.

Print-Quality Photo

Saturday's show, which starts at 7:30 p.m., features J. Scott Homan, a comedian originally from Alabama who has appeared in television specials on Comedy Central, HBO, and Showtime and opened for Jeff Foxworthy and Chris Rock. "An earthy perspective, quirky wit and modest charm make J. Scott Homan ideally suited for comedy and/or snake-charming," Homan's Web site states.

"Seventy-five percent of the proceeds that we make from that evening will go toward the goal," school psychology student and past participant in the practicum Misha Graves said. Graves said students are trying to raise money for a couple initiatives to benefit the school at the Agua Viva Children's Home in Chimaltenango, Guatemala.

"We want to gather school supplies for the students because they're really lacking there," she said. "And we're also hoping to provide them with some startup money for a library."

The IU group plans to go sometime in August. This is the second practicum, following up the first trip in 2006. During that nine-day stay at the school, students shared best practices with teachers in areas of literacy, mathematics, social skills and other topics. She said participants met with teachers, but also practiced techniques in the classroom with students at Agua Viva. The IU students spend weeks preparing before the trip to Guatemala. They earn two credit hours for the graduate seminar.

"The overall goal was to take some of the knowledge and information that we have gained here in our literature and our research, both in education and school psychology, as well as in instruction, and give it to these teachers in the form of professional development modules," practicum sponsor and assistant professor of school psychology Rebecca Martinez said.

For the IU graduate students, the practicum offered a challenging way to hone their expertise in their specialty areas.

"For me, it was really nice since we got to pick a module we wanted to work on," 2006 project participant Drew Heckman said. "I picked classroom behavior management. I think that helped me to become a better consultant."

That result is one of the ideas behind the practicum. "Our school psych program is really founded on the social justice principle, where we try to promote and endorse equality for everyone," Martinez said. "We are able to talk about it and we can read about it and write about it, but I think this practicum made us do it."

Martinez came up with the concept for the practicum during another service trip to the school in 2005, just after Agua Viva completed a new school building. She said she hoped to develop a program that could prove mutually beneficial for the IU students and the Guatemalan students and teachers. After the 2006 trip, Martinez said the IU students represented the U.S. and the university very well. And she said by placing the students in an uncomfortable position -- working in an unfamiliar place, dealing with an unfamiliar language -- they became better prepared to meet the challenges that come with working as a school psychologist (or something similar).

The past participants emphasized that the relationships with the students they interacted with was the most powerful part of the experience.

"I expected to go down and this to be a very academic task, and it was," Heckman said. "But then some of the relationships I formed with the kids, it was just a lot of playing and having fun, and I didn't expect that."

Graves said it "changed my life," something she realized most on the last day of the practicum.

"All the kids prepared this performance for us," she said. "They were dancing and singing and I just was thinking when I was watching this performance that it should have been us giving it. Really, I felt like I wasn't worthy of it, that they had just given us so much."

There will be donation bins to collect supplies for the Guatemalan project throughout the Wright Education Building, 201 N. Rose Ave. Participants will also pick up any donations. More information on the project is availble at http://www.awcpindiana.org/guatemala/guatemala.html

Media Outlets: The following comments are available as mp3 files on the IU School of Education Web site at http://www.education.indiana.edu. Look for this news release under "News" on the home page. The sound bites below will have a clickable link to hear and to save the files.

Graves says the trip to Guatemala in 2006 provided an invaluable experience for students:

"I think that it was a great opportunity just to get experience working with a diverse population of students. You don't get a lot of that here, I don't think, in Indiana. So I was really grateful to have that experience and also just being in another country, another culture and seeing some of the differences that exist in education. I don't know; it opened my eyes for sure."

Fundraising for the trip will support student travel, but also help the Guatemalan school, Graves says:

"What we've been trying to do is raise money for a couple of kind of initiatives. We want to gather school supplies for the students at the school, because, like I was saying, they're really lacking there. So they'll really benefit from the school supplies. And we're also hoping to provide them with some startup money for a library, is what we all kind of decided as a group is a good goal for us to have. And we're doing that through, well, we have a fundraiser right now and we have a couple more in the works that we're planning for this year. As of now, there will be a fundraiser on March 28 at the Comedy Caravan which is at Bear's Place and it'll be at 7:30 and 75 percent of the proceeds that we make from that evening will go toward this goal."

Martinez says the trip fits very well with the mission of the school psychology program:

"I think we, our school psych program, is really founded on the social justice principle where we try to promote and endorse equality for everyone. I think we are able to talk about it and we can read about it and write about it, but I think this practicum made us do it. So I think it was absolutely invaluable, in that even the struggling through the language and the culture and all that stuff that may have been difficult for some of the students, they put themselves in a position of vulnerability which many newcomer students who come to us as school psychologists or as teachers are in."

Heckman describes the experience he had on the previous Guatemalan trip in 2006:

"The thing that I got out of it that I really didn't expect were some of the relationships you form with the kids while you're down there. I expected to go down and this to be a very academic task and it was. I got a lot out of it in that respect. But then some of the relationships I formed with the kids, it was just a lot of playing and having fun and I didn't expect that."