In the rural zone of the municipality of Igrapiúna, in the Southern Bahia Lowlands, 573 youth have access to an education that is adapted to the reality in which they live. Mathematics and Portuguese classes are part of their daily routine and are not the only content developed. At the State College Youth House, the middle school students (6th to 9th grades) and those from the high school and vocational courses in Agroecology gained more information on topics such as agriculture, theater and poetry, and also learned to prepare breads and cakes at a school bakery and share knowledge in their communities.
The educational complex also offers vocational and digital inclusion courses, aiming to train youth for work. The structure includes computer laboratories, a library, auditorium, industrial kitchen, multi-sports court and 10 classrooms. There was also the implementation of the Industry of Knowledge – an initiative of the Social Industry Service (SESI) that facilitates the installation of multimedia centers in low income municipalities – and the Military Instruction School, the training agency of the Brazilian Army Reserve that allows high school students to provide Military Service.
In 2012, the work undertaken with the students from the high school – one of the teaching units tied to the Bahia Southern Lowlands Environmental Protection Area Mosaic Program for Development and Growth Integrated with Sustainability (PDCIS), supported by the Odebrecht Foundation and partners from government and private initiative – earned many different distinctions. Whether by promoting volunteer work, strengthening local cultural identity or encouraging projects that promote the generation of work and income, State College Youth House was highlighted during the entire year. Odebrecht News reveals these achievements.
Hearts beating fast. Tension in the air. Four students, representatives from State College Youth House, clearly thrilled. Seated in the audience of the Itaú Cultural Space in São Paulo, on November 27, everyone awaited the announcement of the winner of the 12th edition of the Volunteer School Award. When they heard the victors from journalist Milton Neves, the youth exploded with a catching joy.
“Being among the 10 finalists was already something great,” said Marcos Souza, age 16, a sophomore in high school. “When Milton said ‘Go Bahia!,’ we got really excited,” said Souza. Souza is one of 22 youth who took part in the Theater and Poetry project, strengthening identities in communities from the municipality of Igrapiúna and surrounding area. “We did some outstanding work and we are all working toward the same goal: teaching our students to understand the importance of volunteer work in this country,” said Francisco Nascimento, Art teacher and coordinator of the initiative.
State College Youth House’s participation in the award was prompted by the experience in the quilombola community of Laranjeira, also located in Igrapiúna, where every month workshops are held that encourage reading and the strengthening of cultural identity of children and residents. The students participate as volunteers and replicate the knowledge acquired at school. For Adeilane Souza, who is a junior in high school, the learning is highly important. “We create plays on topics that the communities most need,” said the 19-year-old. “Our first job is to visit them and collect information. After that, we prepare the presentation. We feel privileged to receive this information,” said Souza.
The content was the topic of a news story that aired in November 2012 on the radio station Rádio Bandeirantes, which promotes the Volunteer School Program in partnership with the Itaú Social Foundation. The finalists received training in radio journalism and produced a story to present the social project. Juliane Santos, age 17, was the presenter. “It was something very important in my life,” said the freshman in high school. “I learned to speak quickly, without forgetting commas and accents. We were able to transform a dream into reality,” said Santos. “We will continue with the program, ensuring that it grows. We have potential and we can make a difference,” she said.
Antônio Matias, Vice Chairman of the Itaú Social Foundation, believes that the award is a way of recognizing and motivating the educators: “We are transmitting a message to society that school can indeed be a space not just for learning, but also for building citizenship,” said Matias. Thais Vilas Boas, age 15, who is a freshman, concluded that the most important thing was the exchange of experiences with the community. “We donated knowledge,” she said.
To continue forward with the activities, State College Youth House received a check in the amount of R$ 15,000. That same night, students from the Alphaville International School in São Paulo, who came in second, decided to donate their prize, in the amount of R$ 10,000, to the Bahia high school.
Promoting the Strengthening of Local Cultural Identity
In order to strengthen cultural identity at the high school, there was the promotion of actions integrated with the school curriculum designed to enhance a critical social awareness through study groups, theater workshops and community visits. Lectures, the recovery of customs and traditions and the creation of a samba group and interviews with historic personalities from the region were also part of the Local Cultural Identity Strengthening Project, which received the Educate for Racial Equality Award.
The initiative seeks to map school practices focused on dealing with the topic of race. Of the total 486 that signed up, the State College Youth House project was one of the 16 winners. “We aim to consolidate a new educational culture, where discipline and the contextualization of the rural life make a difference in the lives of the students and community,” said teacher Francisco Nascimento, who represented the high school on December 11 and 12 during the award ceremony. “Therefore, this distinction has a special meaning,” he said.
The teaching unit will be benefited with a monitoring plan to promote and maximize the potential impact of the actions. The award is promoted by the Work Relations and Inequality Study Center in partnership with the Department of Racial Equality Promotion Policies (SEPPIR), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the bank Banco Santander in Brazil and the Fund for Racial Equality – Baobá.
The successful experiences from the Medicinal Garden earned State College Youth House the Bahia Quality Management Award, granted by the Bahia Association for Competitive Management. The proposal is to train students to cultivate medicinal plants and make natural homemade remedies and share their learning with the members of their communities. The initiative currently benefits 381 people in the Bahia Southern Lowlands.
“The Medicinal Garden integrates the school with the community under an exclusively educational perspective, which maximizes the potential knowledge of the earth, popular culture and knowledge of one’s ancestors,” explained Ademário Reis, the high school principal. Reis added that the seedlings produced in the greenhouses are donated to the students themselves and to others from the community, who then continue with the cultivation on their properties. “Including the families in the project leads to opportunities for the generation of income, and consequently, the expansion of knowledge,” he said.
For Agroecology Technician ângelo de Jesus, who graduated from State College Youth House in 2011, participating in the Medicinal Garden brought about positive changes in his life. “I convinced my mother to care for the garden based on the practices learned in school,” she said. “In this way, I prepared the area with dead coverage from dry grass to conserve the fertilized and humid soil. After that, I planted medicinal seedlings and vegetables.” Jesus explained that his family members have already learned enough about cultivating and warmly accepted the innovations he brought. “We plant, harvest, extract the oil from the plant and make syrup,” he said. “It is already possible to sell what we produce. I believe that every young person dreams about having his or her own business and growing together with the family. Therefore, I’m already living my dream.”