To celebrate and explore the potential of student leadership, Teach For All is collecting and sharing stories from across the network and around the globe. When students LEAD, we all LEARN.

Enseña por Colombia

Building yourself

Student Leaders
Juliet Fernanda Rodríguez Rico and Jennifer Jaimes Morales, students in the Colegio Jaime Garzón, part of TECHO Colombia, COP and Co-School
Adult Supporter
Daniel Londoño Hoyos
Age of Students
17, both seniors

Please describe how your students exercised their leadership and the impact they had.

The most powerful thing we understood through this exercise was a key element to become change makers: the power of the little things. At the beginning we started with small things like learning how to work with other in groups, understanding how other people think and feel and creating solutions to little challenges in the classroom. However, Jennifer and Juliet wanted more so they attended to a meeting organized by the school in which they learned how garbage works, why the ecological issues are important and how they can change that inside the school. Guided by this idea, we talked with Co-School, a social enterprise created by Carlos Echeverry (Enseña por Colombia alumni) and Henry May (Teach First alumni) and now leaded by Laura Borda (Enseña por Colombia alumni) and all together though about how can we introduce a sense of membership in the school with a huge impact in how students treat nature. To do that, Juliet and Jennifer talked to people in the Trasmilenio system, went to the streets and shared their perspective about this issue, took their breaks to teach the importance of helping nature and introduced in the whole school a new culture of respect and mutual collaboration. They, and other students, developed two projects to build a new image of our school: a place in which nature must be respected, even in a city like Bogotá where the pollution and the antipathy to this kind of projects is growing every day more and more. Finally, I would like to say that the final product of this project was not only the work they did with the school, but the awareness they developed in all this exercise, Today both, Juliet and Jennifer, are part of TECHO, a non-profit that aims to bring emergency housing to people in all Colombia (and some other countries in Latin America), houses that were build by them in their own neighborhood and that integrated with their other projects.

What role did you play in supporting your students’ leadership?

I would like to think that my rol inside my students' leadership exercise was as a mentor. I did the networking, I talked with my principal and with the staff of Enseña por Colombia and all together created the bridge between my students and some alumni from teach for all who were working in these projects some time before them (these incredible people are Laura Natalí Borda and Carlos Echeverry, both from Enseña por Colombia, and Henry May, alumni from Teach First). At the same time, I delegated some functions in the classroom such as helping other students to reach their goals and be agents able to create solutions to common challenges they face in the classroom when I am not there. Juliet in this case helped Cristian Bedoya to approve his junior year and Jennifer worked with Robinson Fontecha with the same purpose. Now both, Cristian and Robinson, are seniors and they are waiting for college. But maybe my biggest support was applying to this kind of events, go and share what I learned with them. In May, I attended to the Global Teaching Summit that took place in Miri, Malaysia, and for these students that message was very simple: if you work hard for your community (as Laura, Carlos, Henry and myself did and do), you can go far, learn and come back with new skills and knowledge to change the little world you live in. In this case, the school and the neighborhood, but in some years the whole country.

What did you and your students learn in this activity that will endure beyond today?

I think what we have learned was clear: we can change the world if you really work for it. It does not matter where you live or how much money you have. One of the most inspire facts about this exercise was that Juliet and Jennifer build their projects with people from different backgrounds: college students, fellows and alumni from different members of the network, people of their own communities and even with students from the most expensive schools in Colombia, like the Nogales school, the Saint George school and the Nueva Granada school, all together to help our country to overcome the gap between rich and poor. This project is now part of the social impact the school has and is going to be developed for other students in the future. However, the clue that is telling us that this project, and with it this new mindset, is going to endure beyond today is the clear vision we have about ourselves: Juliet is going to study law and she wants to become a person who can transform society through rights and the rules our country has. Jennifer wants to study environmental engineering and be able to change the way we relate with nature. And about myself, I hope to work next year in the Ministry of Education in order to get to know how public policy works and how can I contribute to change.