Julia Perez is from the community of las Tablas, located in the corregimiento del Potrero district of La Pintada. She was told about the Forum Academy by a teacher at her school in Potrero. “I was able to take the test at colegio Ruben Dario Carles, thanks to the parents club of my school and my family.”
I remember that when I arrived to take the test, I was able to understand how special and challenging going to Forum Academy would be. That made me want to be admitted even more. Even though this was not the only challenge to get in, there was still the interview, and then a commitment to attend summer camp to help us prepare for the challenge of being away from home.
Joining the Forum family is an experience that has left me speechless. I am unable to describe it in words. It is simply the best thing to have happened in my life.
What makes Forum special is that we are like a family. We shared the good and bad moments while we were at the Academy, and even though we sometimes failed. We would get back up, stronger than before. Each of us had our talents, customs, beliefs, and we shared them openly and with respect. We understood the value of working as a team and valuing time. I remember we loved to read together at the Academy.
I have many fond memories of my time as a Forum Academy student. But the most special was celebrating Thanksgiving. Because we all gave thanks to our administrative team, teachers and students. It was on these occasions that we could show the love and appreciation we had for each other.
Julia mostly enjoyed studying mathematics, chemistry, and history. “The Foundation provided everything we needed to concentrate on our studies, uniforms, school supplies, books, food, computers, labs, equipment, dormitories, and anything else we might need.”
After graduating from Forum Academy in 2016, Julia enrolled at the University of Panama and began her journey to become a chemistry teacher. She shares that she was inspired to pursue this career after meeting a teacher who loved chemistry. It was then that she realized she loved teaching and being able to conduct experiments.
An exemplary student, Julia continues receiving support from Forum Foundation to finish her university degree. “The Foundation supports me and other students with a scholarship that helps us pay for the rent in an apartment that I share with my roommates, (who are also students supported by Forum Foundation). We are also able to buy food and other things we might need. The support also includes furnishing our living space with beds, desks, and shelves to keep our books.”
Julia is close to graduating. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has not allowed her to finish the required graduation assignment, or social work credit hours. Both of these have been made difficult by health restrictions, and distance learning.
We asked Julia what she felt made Forum Academy special. So special in fact, that Julia has returned to help out, first at the Academy and now reaching out to students to offer virtual support as they navigate distance learning. “The Academy was something magical for me and helping there is part of the magic, it motivated me to keep moving forward, seeing all those young kids there to also fulfill their dreams. I did it out of love, like Nelson Mandela said education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”
By helping students out with chemistry assignments as a way of giving back. Julia wants more young people to be interested in sciences and understanding nature. In the past, she had been able to provide these workshops and tutorings in person, but COVID-19 restrictions and distance learning mean in-person assistance is not possible.
So the students and Julia have been using Whatsapp chats to communicate. “I like sharing tricks and strategies that helped me learn faster, I feel like I can share that knowledge and be a leader. This has also been a great experience in understanding the challenges I will face as a teacher.” Given the upcoming school year in Panama is likely to be a hybrid distance learning and in-person learning approach, Julia has cultivated a growth mindset that will help ensure her future success as a teacher who will undoubtedly ignite her student’s passion for learning.
When she is able to complete her assignments and graduate, Julia wants to find a teaching job where she can continue growing and sharing her love for chemistry. “I want to help my family out and also go on to graduate school. I want to help and give back to the education system here in Panama. I would also like to experience other cultures and have new experiences. For example, it would be great to improve my English. Furthermore, I want to volunteer in the area of leadership education with Ensena por Panama.”
Stories like Julia’s are evidence of what our founder John Keffer calls sustainable change. That by giving exceptional students the resources and opportunities to continue their education. These students can in turn go on to have a positive impact in their community. Serving to inspire other students along the path to accomplishing their goals.