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Haitian students celebrate new opportunities

Haitian students celebrate new opportunities

Published: December 16, 2011

After six months of hard work in an accelerated technical training program, youth supported by AFSC in Martissant, a Port-au-Prince community, celebrated their achievement in a graduation ceremony held in Petionville. One hundred youth passed the state exam and received certifications in plumbing, masonry, or refrigeration.

The path to graduation was neither the straightest nor the easiest for many of the students. One such student is Myrlande Devallon, 21, the valedictorian of her masonry class and a potential role model  that could encourage other young women to participate in a typically male dominated profession.

Myrlande has been in and out of school for different reasons her entire life. Before starting the program this year, she said, “I was not doing much of anything really. Being part of the program, I was able to realize my true potential and really succeed. ”

 Now she feels that she can continue her schooling and eventually make it to university. Even though she doesn’t know exactly what she wants to do next, Myrlande says she knows that she can do anything if given the chance.

Six training center monitors also were recognized for their hard work and creativity in keeping the students motivated and attending classes – which is hard to do in Martissant, as it is in much of Haiti. Many of the youth must take care of younger siblings and the household while their parents go off to look for work, or they themselves must go off to see how they can make ends meet for the day. The monitors of the centers found ways to keep their youth motivated and attending by planning group activities, sometimes changing the schedule to accommodate  students, as well as keeping close ties with the students.

AFSC decided to work with youth in Martissant after a field visit found that Martissant is an area filled with violence and conflict, more so than many other areas in the country. AFSC’s staff developed a program that served youth’s need for training and employment and help counter the appeal of joining gangs. This strategy focuses energy in productive ways by supporting income through training, cultural activities, and civic engagement. 

Now the youth, aided by the monitors, will decide if they want to return to school, get an internship, seek a job, or start a business.

Refrigeration student Celine Toussaint, 23, turned out to be one of the top students – just as she wanted. For being such a model student, she was chosen to address her peers with a speech during the graduation ceremony. After graduation, she said, “I feel like a somebody…and excited to get a paid internship which will also support my plans to continue school.” (Watch Celine's story.)

Celine does not want to stop with a certification in refrigeration. She would like to continue school, eventually obtaining a university degree; she hopes to become an engineer.

Because Celine, Myrlande, and the other graduates are prepared and excited for the future, AFSC has chosen to take the lessons learned and apply them in a partnership with St. Charles de Borromee School, in Croix des Bouquets, which serves 600 students. AFSC is excited to reach and connect with a larger community of parents, teachers, and others through the school which also functions as a center of the community.