Our work is focused on increasing and expanding supporting access learning opportunities in the mountains of rural Cocle, by providing the support and tools communities can use to build a more prosperous future.
Forum Foundation has worked tirelessly since 2006 to provide the support and tools to help communities grow. We began by providing uniforms and computers to schools as well as transportation to students who could not otherwise attend classes because of distant commutes. Support has also helped to remodel class rooms, create science labs, construct dorms, install solar panels and computer labs, renovate kitchens, supply food, teach computer literacy, as well as provide folk culture and arts education. Our work then evolved to help students enroll and graduate from university.
We recently moved our base of operations to where it all began so many years ago Caimito. Still, in 2020, Forum Foundation assistance helped 58 students graduate high school and 52 students graduate university. Support also helped 83 students continue their high school education.
Each project has been made possible by parents, teachers, and community members who recognized their needs and worked to address those challenges.
Learners receive Forum Foundation support to finish secondary education successfully. Then we provide access to learning resources, mentorship, and guidance to better prepare, successfully apply, enroll and graduate from University. Learners can then return to the community center for further assistance as they apply for jobs or further education. We encourage all Forum Foundation alumni to return to the center and become mentors for new students. Helping make change sustainable.
Community Center, CAimito
The community center is the base of operations for Forum Foundation’s community outreach programs, that help support local students and schools. Members of our learning community can sign up for educational workshops, receive counseling for university admission, and apply for student support services. Equipped with a computer lab, library and instructional space, the center provides access to the opportunities and resources that drive community development and make change sustainable.
We provide, guidance counseling, and assistance for students to prepare, enroll and graduate from universities. Learners may also apply for financial aid scholarships to help cover the cost of university in Panama or abroad. For example, financial aid often helps cover the cost of renting apartments closer to the universities in Penonome.
Our student outreach helps us identify learners in need of support who are attending public schools in the area. Financial aid is awarded for academic acheivement.The assistance provided helps cover the costs of transportation, lodging in school dormitories, uniforms, cell phone data, and food.
Bridging the Digital Divide
For several years much of our work involved providing access to computers in rural community schools in Cocle, Panama. Following the global COVID-19 pandemic, technology is now a inextricable part of education. We remain committed, to providing the communties we serve with greater access to digital communication technologies, helping learners grow their digital literacy. Aquiring the skills and comptencies that will help them build a better future.
COMPUTER DONATIONS: The computer installation program is among the first projects that Forum Foundation undertook in conjunction with Instituto Profesional y Técnico José de Los Reyes Vásquez in the town of Caimito. As society becomes more dependent on new technology, increased attention is being given to computer literacy, which has become an essential skill for a successful professional career. The community in Caimito came together to make this initial program a success, building tables and desks to form its first computer lab.The addition of computers has not only benefited students but working adults as well: Weekend computer classes are offered in each school that Forum Foundation supports. Computer classrooms and courses have been established in Caimito, San Miguel Centro, Bajo Grande, Pajonal, and Chigoré.
SOLAR PANEL DONATIONS:
Most students attending school in Bajo Grande had never seen a computer before, much less taken a computer course. Forum Foundation was eager to help, but a lack of electricity on site presented serious challenges. However, what the school lacked in reliable energy was made up for by a strong and active Parent-Teacher Association and a well-respected and effective school director. Forum Foundation, in conjunction with these actors and the Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá, worked to solve the energy issue by installing solar panels to support a computer lab in the school. UTP worked tirelessly to design and execute the plans for the installation, while the community supported the project through fund-raising and volunteering. In 2011, it was completed.
Transportation: Many students in rural Coclé have limited access to transport services, leaving some with a 2+ hour walk to school in all weather conditions. To eliminate barriers to school attendance, the Forum Foundation purchased a bus in 2009, which helped to carry nearly 500 students to and from school in Coclé Province.
In some areas, public transportation is the only option. In these instances, Forum Foundation has awarded individual transportation scholarships to students in need of assistance. In 2011 Forum Foundation expanded its transportation service to schools by partnering with I.P.T. La Pintada to refurbish a bus for the students attending school in that town. With this addition, Forum Foundation supported a further 600 students.
Dormitories: In some cases, students need to travel so far to attend a school that simply providing transportation for them is not enough. In recognition of this, rural high schools frequently have dormitories for students who are unable to make the daily commute. However, many parents are unable to fund the costs associated with dorm life, including meals at school. Student assistance then becomes essential. Forum Foundation provides subsidies for students whose parents cannot afford to have their children live in a school dormitory. In 2012 alone Forum Foundation-funded room and board for 130 students at two high schools, none of whom would have been able to attend high school otherwise.
Support for the arts:
Forum Foundation helps support the arts by providing financial assistance to support folkloric dance, choir, and culture programs to primary school students at Colegio Ruben Dario Carles.
Disparities in education, as in most countries, are key causes of poverty, malnutrition, and inequality in Panama. Education is therefore a crucial elevator. In an effort to address theses issues among student populations, Forum Foundation began meal assistance programs in 2010. By the end of 2012 over 400 students had benefited from meal scholarships. But Forum Foundation discovered another issue: Many school kitchens were not equipped with modern appliances. Parent volunteers frequently prepared food over open wood fires, creating serious health complications. In 2011 Forum Foundation worked with C.E.B.G. Mercedes Bustamante in Toabré to revamp their kitchen facilities. In 2012 Forum Foundation renovated the school kitchen at I.P.T. José de Los Reyes Vásquez in Caimito. Projects for 2013 include renovations to the school kitchens in Chiguiri Arriba and Bajo Grande.
New Classrooms: Many of the schools in Coclé do not have adequate space to accommodate those enrolled. Some classes still meet outside or in rough concrete structures with roofs made of native materials.Between 2009-2012 Forum Foundation helped 1,151 students from Caimito and Tulú by renovating existing classrooms and by building new ones. Forum Foundation worked closely with school directors and the Parent Teacher Associations to fully realize these projects. Many parents volunteered their time and skills to build the schools while others organized fundraisers and helped transport materials.
Uniforms: A key to maximizing enrollment (and thereby graduation) is making education affordable. School uniforms, which can cost up to $125 per student, can prove a real financial hurdle for struggling families. By providing uniform scholarships to needy families, Forum Foundation removes yet another barrier standing in the way of students and their education.
The importance of learning English cannot be overstated in an increasingly interconnected and globalized world. English is the fourth most widely spoken native language in the world, and in terms of sheer number of speakers, it is the most spoken official language. English is indisputably the primary language of global trade and commerce and international affairs. In many countries, tourism authorities and other public officials speak English in order to interact and engage with tourists, immigrants, and international business personnel. Having a firm grasp of the English language can optimally position students toward higher paying careers as well as curb the cycle of poverty in rural Coclé. English is therefore an important part of the curriculum at Forum Academy and other Foundation-supported schools.
Forum Foundation is also responsible for starting the first advanced English preparatory course at the Centro Regional de Coclé, Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá in 2012. We selected nine graduates from high schools in Coclé to attend the six-month program, which involved rigorous English classes as well as other courses, for which they earned college credit.
Upon completion of the program, three students were selected to receive full scholarships to the Hun School of Princeton in Princeton, NJ, for a year (2012-2013) of post-graduate study in the United States. The following year saw the second cycle of students in the Advanced English program, with two students selected to attend the Hun School for the 2013-2014 academic year.