The Antigua International School Celebrates a Milestone
Think Critically, Act Ethically, Serve Others.
Arturo and José Pablo stood up slowly and faced their classmates. The class had gathered comfortably in a circle, strewn on the couches and beanbags in the library. The boys leaned over to the computer to start the video they had produced, “1954 Coup D’etat: Death of the Guatemalan Spring.”
As the video played, images of Presidents Árevalo, Árbenz and the start of the Guatemalan armed conflict played out with seamless narration, in-depth analysis and rarely seen footage. When the video finished, hands went up. Some students questioned the sources, others if there was bias, some shared personal experiences, many encouragement.
I just sat there. Amazed. This is what we had dreamt of just a few years before. A place where children and young people could learn, question and express themselves. Where they could challenge their viewpoints and backgrounds and work on a better Guatemala. And here were Arturo and José Pablo doing just that, preparing to go to the selective National History Day competition in Washington, D.C. Choosing to present on a complex and controversial subject, armed with well-researched sources, analysis and passion. But better yet, armed with the feedback of their classmates, who collectively represented every socio-economic and cultural sector, both nationally and internationally.
This was a regular day at the Antigua International School (AIS), but a far cry from a typical school in Guatemala or, for that matter, in many places in the world.
On Nov. 7, AIS will celebrate its sixth birthday. It is a milestone. AIS has multiplied by 6. Six times more students, more programs and more opportunity. Today, AIS has 325 students in pre-k through 12th grade; 75 percent of students are Guatemalan, and the remainder represent 30 countries. Fifty percent of the students receive scholarships to attend. AIS has graduated two classes, with 100 percent of students accepted into a university.
In these past six years, AIS has built a permanent campus and received international accreditation through the New England Schools and Colleges Association (NEASC) and MINEDUC, and has partnered with the College Board, Princeton University’s PILA program and been recognized by the U.S State Department. While these facts are important and impressive, they do not capture fully what AIS is.
AIS’s motto is “Think Critically, Act Ethically, Serve Others.” This vision is lived out daily in a deliberate way. Students are encouraged to question through a project-based program and group discussion. Ethical choices are modeled and practiced through an extensive Life Skills program that includes conflict resolution. Service is not an hours-based, holiday-only event, but a part of the curriculum that includes reflection, analysis and collaboration with over 10 nonprofits in the region. This is the true core of an AIS education.
As we watch the upheavals in politics both nationally and internationally today, I think of the students discussing in the library. Some came from indigenous backgrounds, some from the oligarchy, some from American suburbia and others from socialist European countries. They questioned, disagreed, showed passion and strong opinions, but they never lost respect and always showed empathy. They could certainly teach many of us this lesson today.
As founders, we had neither educational backgrounds, extensive financial resources nor experience with children, but we believed as Ghandi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” As AIS celebrates its sixth birthday, I would encourage others in the Antigua community to do the same. Discuss, disagree, push each other to find better solutions and in doing so, transform our community and the world.
REVUE magazine article by Christine Wilson.
The Antigua International School (AIS) is a nonprofit, pre-k through grade 12 school located in La Antigua Guatemala.
For more information, visit www.antiguais.org or contact Christine Wilson directly, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.