Despite the high priority Guatemalan families place on their children's education, achieving that goal for most rural families is extremely difficult. Most rural Guatemalan children do not continue past primary school, and indeed, most do not even graduate from sixth grade. The cost of education--including school supplies, monthly fees, uniforms, transportation, and also loss of a child's assistance to their parents in the household or in the field--is prohibitively expensive.
Through the Metcaff-Smither Scholarship Fund, PAVA is able to step in and assist talented students who might not otherwise be able to even consider attaining a high school degree, which in Guatemala culminates in completing a 'career' so that a graduate is then qualified to find a specialized job. In addition, middle schools and high schools are located at great distances from highlands villages, creating the further hardship of either many hours of travel time or the need to board in a larger town in order to attend school.
PAVA's scholarship program provides rural children with the means and social support they need to continue through and succeed in secondary school. PAVA's Scholarship Program coordinator works with teachers in elementary schools throughout Chimaltenango to identify talented students who have the potential to be successful in secondary school. Once a child has demonstrated his or her academic proficiency through means of a qualifying exam, and after interviews with the student and their parents to ensure commitment to the program, he or she is offered a partial scholarship including funding for supplies, uniforms and appropriate board or transportation costs.
Throughout the year there are several student/parent activities held throughout the year to motivate and educate families about the challenges of achieving a secondary education and navigating through the adolescent years. Additionally, opportunities are created for Scholarship Program students to socialize with one another and to learn from each other's experience. A mid-year 'convivencia' provides a fun day to enjoy each other's company in a local park. A week-long retreat at the end of the school year provides an invaluable experience for all the students to learn about their own history and culture, build friendships, and promote confidence and maturity as the students continue through high school. Past 'campamentos' have included exploration of the capital, Guatemala City, Baja and Alta Verapaz, Peten and Izabal. In 2005, the 'campamento' was cancelled because of relief efforts underway after Tropical Storm Stan. In 2006, students explored Antigua, the colonial capital.