Rise Up Belize! fashion show fundraiser set for Nov. 15 at Katia’s Collections

It has been written in this publication before about Tahoe Park resident Joey Garcia’s deep-rooted connectedness with the human experience through her writing for the Sacramento News and Review, teaching at St. Francis High School, and also by the work she does helping children in her home country of Belize.

For years, she heard stories of her home country which prompted her to visit extended family, and by her 30s, she finally did for the first time since a toddler, an experience that kept her coming back. During those vacations, her desire to help others manifested when after 10 years, she formed Rise Up Belize!, which is an advancement-through-education nonprofit organization that serves fourth through sixth graders by honing their skills at tuition-free academic summer camps. Sacramento-area teachers volunteer to conduct three-day trainings meant to advance the skills of Belizean primary school teachers.

“There is no free education in Belize—it’s all tuition- and fee-based—so we help Belizean youth pay for high school,” she says. “One young Belizean man who received an RUB scholarship is now a police officer, another is in law school. One young woman who received an RUB scholarship is a nurse, another is a teacher. It’s exciting to make a difference, one person at a time.”

Training for teenagers in the Rise Up Belize! Academy of Student Teachers includes workshops in cultural competency, curriculum development and classroom management, facilitated by experienced master teachers who currently work in Sacramento-area high schools. The Rise Up Belize! Academy of Student Teachers is the only U.S. program in which high school students create curriculum and teach — fully in charge of a classroom — in a developing country. Teens in the Academy of Student Teachers gain leadership skills that will stay with them the rest of their lives.

One of the volunteers, a St. Francis High School graduate and now a student at UC Berkeley, Maddy Dyer, attended the student teacher program. While still in high school, she organized a fundraiser for Rise Up Belize! and helped train the student teachers who were serving in Belize.

In an interview with this publication, Maddy said her first of two trips to Belize was the first time abroad without her family.”We prepared for the trip for about eight months. The process for preparing for the trip was the longest. We were there for 10-11 days. We taught for a week, but it takes time to fundraise.”

She said she really enjoyed working with kids her first trip down, tutoring at local elementary schools, but the second time she wanted to take the reigns and make an impact. So she developed more organizational skills and realized the extent of her patience. “I am pretty patient. I could ring in a class of 20 rambunctious kids.”

The children there, Maddy said, really have no sense of self esteem and that much of her job was to help them come up with goals and strive to achieve them. “It’s not really instilled at home or in the classroom. Everyday, we had a lesson surrounding self esteem. We talked about the cycle of violence. Kids are caught in that. The age group was eight to 10 years old.”

Even though the time spent in Belize was just a few days, Maddy saw a positive change in attitude with the children. “They were shy. Two American girls in a classroom – they were a little scared. Girls are different, subservient. My biggest goal was not just teach them fractions but give them a self esteem.

“A lot of kids friended me (on Facebook) immediately after I left. They still call me Miss Maddy. Through out the time, they wrote about their dreams. They wrote about going to Harvard and being in the Olympics. They were going to pursue those goals after I left.”

On Sunday, Nov. 15 at 11 a.m. at Katia’s Collections, 1608 41st St., there will be a benefit for Rise Up Belize! where all proceeds go to the nonprofit. The cost is $30 and will include a fashion show, champagne and brunch. RSVP by Nov. 8. To reserve your seat, write a check to Rise Up Belize! and mail to Jan Lee 1608 41st St., Sacramento 95819.

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