Foward with Forum

Executive Director
JAir Guevara

As the new year marches on, there is an opportunity to look back on what has transpired, reflect on what we have learned, and share our excitement for the future. 

I am reminded of a Korean proverb “There is a hole to escape through even when the sky collapses on us.” Although the sky is not collapsing, this is how many of us felt when the COVID-19 pandemic turned our lives upside down. It is a phrase that I kept in my mind as we made the difficult decision to close the Forum Academy and refocus Foundation resources on programs that would have the greatest impact on student success.

Although all seemed uncertain, we pulled together to find the hole to escape through. Through the chaos, Profesora Elvia and Profesora Omaira remained steadfast, never wavering in their commitment to helping students stay the course. They were supported by Ms. Iris and Ms. Sandra, who were fundamental in moving the Foundation’s operations to Caimito.

Several Forum Academy alumni, volunteered their time to help the administrative team with the move as well as support other students. Our administrative team’s efforts resulted in all 13 former Forum Academy senior’s enrollment at the same school, ensuring they had the support to complete assignments and graduate.  All grade 10 and 11 students were also placed in public schools and given support to continue their studies. We were also able to continue helping students attend university. 

We are thrilled to share the wonderful news that all thirteen of our former Forum Academy seniors successfully graduated from Colegio Angel Maria Herrera in Penonome. In addition, forty-five students receiving Forum Foundation support were able to graduate from local community high schools and fifty-two students graduated from University. Moreover, we are excited to share that two of the high school graduates this year have been awarded full scholarships to the Universidad Rural de Guatemala, where they will be studying Agroforestry Engineering.

Our commitment to helping students, families, and communities with a passion for learning but who lack resources and opportunities, continues thanks to the unwavering support of our founders John Keffer and Janet Robinson, and the Board of Directors of Forum Foundation. Now, more than ever, our students need support. The lack of resources and opportunities now also affects the new world of online and distance learning. It is therefore ever more pressing that we remain flexible, nimble, and adaptable in our approach to providing students with the assistance they need to be successful.  

Although we no longer provide educational support through a traditional school, we are advancing learning through targeted and tailored programs. We are confident our support is having a significant impact through the services and resources offered by our Community Center. We have already started providing information on our support moving forward and hope to welcome some 50 new grade 10 students, and some 30 new university scholarship recipients. We are working on developing after-school workshops to help students increase their skills in digital literacy, English, mathematics, and science. Future plans also include offering workshops for leadership, communication essentials, and preparation for job interviews. 

Over the course of the year, we have increased our efforts to share stories about the impact Forum Foundation has continued to have whilst adapting our operations to distance learning contexts. Relaunching our website, developing our newsletter, and sharing content on our social media is our hope of sustaining the change we can see in each and every one of these stories. Together they form an encouraging constellation of inspired young citizens, who are already helping build a better future. 

The impact of our work is clear in the voices of all the students over the years, their lives forever changed through the generosity of Forum Foundation. This year the Centro de Investigacion Educativa de Panama released the results of their research on high school student performance and university admissions. The research confirms the ongoing struggle for students to complete high school and be prepared for the challenges of university academics. There is no doubt the stretch to adapt to distance learning formats is an additional strain on an already challenging situation. We know that our support matters and that it will have a positive impact on helping students achieve their goals. 

As we gathered to video conference for the end of the year. John and Janet reflected on how special it feels to know that Forum Foundation remains true to the work that they started so many years ago.  For all that know John and Janet, this brings us immense joy.

What began with donating school buses to help students make it to school from their communities located far up the mountain, evolved into the only school to ever offer the IB diploma program to exceptional students of the rural mountains of Cocle. Free of charge. I am fortunate to have graduated from the International School of Panama, our country’s oldest IB school. It is awe-inspiring to continue learning from the students who were part of the Academy, and all the obstacles and challenges they have overcome to complete one of the most rigorous curriculums the world over.

It is truly difficult to express the admiration I have for the Forum Family members I have met so far. Each of them deeply committed to the idea that change can be sustainable. For proof of John’s words coming to fruition, one need look no further than the words of former students like Orlando, Maria, Moises, Julia, Pascuala, Yasmin, I could go on and on.  Their desire to give back, to serve as an example, to help their communities, is the fulfillment of John’s promise. It is what will forever inspire us to go forward. To help exceptional students, reach for the stars, and achieve their dreams. 

I hope you will join me in celebrating and supporting Forum Foundation.  Together we can continue to build on a successful legacy.  I look forward to hearing from you and working with you.