Preparing to be Leaders and Professionals with a Purpose
By María Aguja Maulhardt
In my years as a young person, I have seen how the media has captured the minds of our youth, limiting their creative capacities and conditioning them to follow the masses and not speak independently, which is sad. I have seen parents working and making an effort to provide their children with the education—especially higher education—that many of them did not have themselves.
I have seen young people finish high school and work hard to find a job in order to pay for their college education. I have also seen young people who have been fortunate to have their parents provide for their education but, for one reason or another, upon graduating and despite having studied hard, they have found it difficult to find employment. Because of this, I get the sense that the system of higher education needs to be reformed, but it must be done so strategically. The geography of a country plays a large part in how the economy and labor market function.
Quetzaltenango saw a boom of progress in days gone by, but nowadays we only see the factories and houses of wealthy people as stories of the past that paint the picture of an economic and social peak back in time. And so, I ask, could it be that the number of college students is proportional to the demand for labor seen in the region? The answer is clearly NO.
Where did this problem start? The way in which students chose their college major must be improved, and with it, the way we think about how to generate significant learning by achieving coherence between theory and practice. How many professionals forget a portion of the content they studied in school because they didn’t specialize in these areas later on in their careers? Anyone can answer this question for themselves and in reality this is often seen; focus is tied to what is practiced.
The years I spent studying to be an English teacher served me well when upon almost completing the major, I found a job. After searching for a long time and without any experience, I was able to teach about the foundational knowledge that I had acquired in the previous years at college and as a primary school teacher.
My story is no different from that of other professionals. Sadly, in our case, there are few programs that increase human capital and at the national level there is not a strategic plan designed to give young people basic capital to help stimulate the economy. It is not an easy challenge, and even less so for people like me who choose to study political science or international relations. Initiatives on how to use power to benefit cities like ours, Quetzaltenango, should be led by the youth, as we are the ones looking for work, but we should also be the ones to propose solutions to the problems related to our day-to-day lives and environment. However, it is not always easy to find the light at the end of the tunnel, especially when our parents have different occupations.
It is very important that professionals and the people who surround us in the educational community have faith in us, knowing that it is not easy to go down the path of professional life. As time goes one and we accumulate experience, we have to find a way to subsist and many of our dreams will be cut short. Is it possible to find a little determination and solidarity in the professional environment? I have realized that it is. Three professionals, two international and one national, with experience in political affairs and business knowledge demonstrated this during a student event from the Department of Political Science at the Universidad Rafael Landívar.
“It’s impossible to take ‘no’ as an answer when we have the drive to do something, it’s just a question of adapting and being persistent about what we want, with ethics and integrity,” expressed the director of Nexos Locales, USAID, Vince Broady, who works within the political science and international relations environment. “You’ll fall more than once in different ways, but what matters is how you pick yourself back up.” Mr. Broady enthusiastically motivated the students, encouraging them to cultivate an attitude of leadership, regardless of their individual interests. “It’s not necessary to be in a position of authority to be a leader,” he stressed. “It’s important to be empathetic and understanding to become the change you wish to see in the world.”
In addition, Mr. Gabriel Wer, a business administrator who currently dedicates himself to social education, spoke about initiative and leadership, emphasizing the importance of starting by knowing yourself and constantly reflecting to be able to make decisions about yourself. In the same way, he stressed how the act of taking initiative is not a decision, but a path. He showed how important it is to turn to someone else to get oriented and then seek out what satisfies you, keeping a purpose in mind, and ending with the questions ‘If not me, whom?’ and ‘If not now, when?’
Because of this, it has been suggested that theory taught in academia should be complemented with experience and a search for new opportunities. To achieve this it is vital that students get involved in activities, but above all must also create a community so that those who come after them have the capacity to visualize their example and drive new initiatives that allow young people to have better employment opportunities, both as employees and job creators.
Silvia Arcandi, from Italy, Volunteer Coordinator at EntreMundos, spoke about her experience as a volunteer in other countries and Guatemala, emphasizing the great experience that she gained and that people gain every time they ask how to collaborate with volunteers.
The international relations students were satisfied with the event, thanking the professionals for the experience and asking how to get involved. Knowledge is vital, but it does not just come with time and a university degree. It needs to be activated through initiatives that promote the use of the virtues and abilities of our youth, involving people of all ages, expressing their joy.
This year, in 2020, a relationship between the new volunteering department at the Universidad Rafael Landívar and EntreMundos was established with the goal of benefiting the wellbeing of the community and directing resources for the benefit of youth in the region.
In all things, love and serve! – St. Ignacio of Loyola