This would have been Orlando Sanchez’s senior year at the Forum Academy. Orlando, who hails from Rio Indio, Altos del Silencio in the mountains of Cocle is no stranger to adversity. His passion for learning is unwavering. When he arrived at the Forum Academy as a tenth grader, he admits he was somewhat scared and shy. But as he says “The opportunity to learn English is what made me come out of my shell.” (Note: Nearly all of this interview was conducted in English)
At the Forum Academy Orlando was introduced to one of the most rigorous high school education programs in the world, the International Baccalaureate. This set the academic standard far beyond what Orlando had experienced before. “I really enjoyed the IB because of all of the subject areas. Especially the analysis and in-depth look at things, developing important abilities like thinking critically.
Orlando also had the opportunity to apply for the Hun School of Princeton Scholarship offered by the Forum Foundation. This scholarship had been awarded to two students selected by the student body and a panel of teachers from the Academy. “When I learned about this opportunity, I made it my mission to learn and improve my English and I got a lot of help from my teachers and fellow students. His hard work paid off and at the beginning of the 2020 school year, Orlando was awarded the scholarship to attend HUN.
Then, the global pandemic turned the world upside down, and the opportunity was gone. Of course, this was a letdown, but that didnt stop Orlando from learning. As the Academy announced its closure and began efforts to place the students at local high schools, he prepared to transition to his new school Angel Maria Herrera. Never one to miss an opportunity, Orlando reached out to Forum Foundation Executive Director Jair Guevara, and they began chatting via Whatsapp, as a means of practicing conversational English, listening, reading, and comprehension. The weekly chats resulted in this interview.
Now a senior at Angel Maria Herrera, Orlando is taking advantage of what he learned while at the Academy. “A lot of what we are doing in class is reviewing things I have already learned, there are some new things, but most of what we are learning I had seen at the Academy.” What he is most excited about though is using his computer (provided by the Foundation), to connect to his online learning. “It’s fantastic,” he says to me in English “we are learning important skills that can get us through these difficult times.
What’s next for Orlando after graduation? He admits that he has changed his mind since first deciding to go to aviation school to become a pilot. Having the advantages of learning the IB he feels confident he can be successful in university and continue improving his English. “That is why I’m interested in bilingual tourism management.”
During the pandemic, Orlando and eleven other seniors continued receiving support from Forum Foundation following the closure of the Forum Academy. “The help we received to be able to purchase our phone data cards is what helped us stay connected to our classes and to do our school work. I was also fortunate to receive a computer and this has been essential for continuing my studies.” In fact, in spite of a global pandemic Orlando and his senior classmates bravely took on the final evaluations of the international baccalaureate diploma program. The results are to be reported in January.
No longer the shy boy that arrived at the Academy in 2016, Orlando is confident he is equipped with the skills, competencies, and education, to be successful, no matter the path he chooses.
Forum Foundation is committed to supporting exceptional students like Orlando, so that they successfully complete high school and go on to university and lifelong learning.