Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What does it mean to graduate?

By Julia Turnbull and Shelley Tennyson

Last Thursday, I attended the sixth session in a series of business training classes, which En Vía offers in the village of Teotitlán del Valle. After the women finished discussing the pros and cons of selling their wares to clients on credit, they received their certificates and graduated from the program. Having just attended several graduations, I began to think about what it means to graduate. 

Graduations mark an accomplishment, and usually follow times of intense examinations and marathon paper writing. For the 37 entrepreneurs who just completed the business training, graduation was a very significant milestone. Shelley, one of our volunteer teachers, was very impressed with the students’ dedication – many of them having had perfect attendance and a sincere interest in employing the skills they learned during the training.

As each student received her certificate, she shared one thing that she learned and how she had already improved her business. Shelley was thrilled about the transformation she saw in her students’ attitudes toward their businesses.

“Most of them started with an attitude that their businesses were something that barely kept them and their families alive, over which they had no control; it was a feeling that their lives of poverty were hopeless and could never change. At the end they were planning to separate their money, find ways to save in small amounts, invest more in their businesses, and selling new products. They were seeing their businesses as something that could really become viable and serve their lives—crack in the wall of poverty that they have lived with all their lives. It's just been incredible.”

Like the graduates I saw in the two college graduations I attended this past month, these graduates were full of hope for their new beginnings. They too have dynamic skill sets that they could not have imagined before they started this journey with En Vía. Their certificates are passports to stronger businesses and better futures.

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