Building a Movement of Student Leaders in Argentina

Faolan Jones

For Agustina Faustin (Enseñá Por Argentina, 2011), it was while teaching in the community of Boulogne on the outskirts of Buenos Aires that she was struck by how little confidence her students had in their ability to affect their reality and change their life trajectories through education.

Agustina saw how decades of political and financial turmoil in Argentina had left many young people, especially those from marginalized low-income communities, feeling disconnected and powerless against the distant forces that shaped their everyday realities. This disempowerment had led to an internalized sense of helplessness and frustration, which was now manifesting in Agustina’s classroom as low self-esteem in her students.  

Agustina realized that in order to have a deep and sustainable impact on the students and communities she served, she would have do more than just confidence building—she would need to help her students defy the myth that to be young and poor in Argentina is ‘to be powerless.'  

In 2013 Agustina launched LIDER.AR (to lead), a program designed to help students recognize that they have the power to effect change in themselves and in their schools, communities, and society. Agustina believed that rather than being powerless, her students were the key to achieving sustainable impact in communities and to building a powerful movement for educational equity in Argentina. Their passion, energy, and creativity had limitless potential; they just needed someone to help them recognize it in themselves.


How does it work?

Step 1: Developing Leadership

In the first semester, the students take part in four workshops facilitated by their teachers:

  1. SELF-AWARENESS:  Recognizing their potential through reflection on strengths, skills, aims, and motivations.
  2. EMPATHY: Developing an understanding of the needs of others in their community.
  3. COMMUNICATION: Developing the confidence to express their ideas and to overcome prejudice and false assertions.
  4. COLLABORATION: Learning how teamwork and network-building can enhance the power of a movement.

Step 2: Exercising Leadership

In the second semester, the students at each school propose projects designed to have an impact in their school and community. Examples of past student projects have included: developing a peer mentoring program, collecting signatures asking the government to install a traffic light at the school gate, and working in their neighborhood to collect blankets and warm clothing. The students have complete ownership of the projects while LIDER.AR provides additional training workshops where they can continue to develop their leadership skills with the support of their teachers.

Step 3: Building a Movement

LIDER.AR facilitates three big events every year where students from all of the different schools come together to connect and collaborate as a movement.


What's next?

LIDER.AR is young but growing fast—now includes 130 students from seven schools who are all beginning to realize their power as leaders in the movement for education equity in Argentina and as innovators in their schools and communities.

The mission of LIDER.AR is not confined to the borders of Argentina. LIDER.AR has already partnered with a similar program in Chile called PANAL (Honeycomb, founded by Tomás Despouy, Enseña Chile 2011), and with (Aspirations), an emerging program in Spain (led by Elena Vázquez and a group of Empieza Por Educar fellows).

The long term vision is to build an international network of student leadership programs connecting and collaborating on a global scale. If you have launched or are planning a student leadership program in your country you can connect with Agustina, Tomás, and Elena through the PANAL website.


Reflection Question:

How can we create opportunities for those most affected by educational inequity to recognize their power as leaders in the movement to end it?