Shania and her cousin Glimmer horse around beside the Yapese Cargo Ship Hapilmogol. Both are attending Yap SDA School with scholarships from Habele.
Shania Marpa, a bright eyed and friendly fourth grader, is a committed student.
"I know school is the key to my future," she says.
Shania is an Outer Island Micronesian, living on the Pacific Island of Yap with her grandparents Gregoria and Moses Marpa. While Micronesia is a remote and impoverished country, with few of the amenities most Americans take for granted, education is a priority.
Still, the public schools on Yap, and particularly in the Outer Islands that surround it, struggle with limited resources, high student-to-teacher-ratios, and a limited pool of qualified teachers.
A growing number of independent and private schools have been established in recent years, often with foreign national teachers in the form of Peace Corps and missionary volunteers. This has importantly expanded options for students and raised community expectations about student accomplishment. Existence of these schools has also allowed for the limited resources in the public system to be more effectively focused on a smaller student population.
The modest tuition charged by these schools, often less than a thousand US dollars per year, limits the ability of some students to attend. This is particularly true in the case of families from the Outer Islands, where the western-style cash economy is far less developed.
A group of Americans is working to help. Through "Habele," a non-profit scholarship granting organization, they are expanding access to quality private education. In the last four years they have issued over $10,000.oo in tuition assistance to students including Shania and her cousin Glimmer. They've also provided hundreds of dollars in school supplies to support the public schools.
Parochial schools, like Yap SDA, provide assistance to these low-income, low-caste students, and work with charities such as Habele to supplement the families' tuition payments.
"We know that success in grades K through 12 will be the key to getting into and succeeding in higher education," explains Moses, "Habele is helping is toward that important goal."
The scholarships are working. Shania's grades (see photo) are excellent and she is on-track to build on her success in the classroom. Moses and Gregoria are very proud. So is Shania.
To learn more, and to make a tax deductible contribution to Habele, visit www.habele.org.