Academic journal article Human Ecology

Maximum Potential: Khanh Phuong Tong Supports Schools and Businesses in Honduras

Academic journal article Human Ecology

Maximum Potential: Khanh Phuong Tong Supports Schools and Businesses in Honduras

Article excerpt

Something about the recruitment poster caught her eye. A student-based start-up trying to promote educational opportunities in rural Honduras?

Now Khanh Phuong Tong '15, a human biology, health, and society graduate, is chief operating officer of Mayor Potencial, a far-reaching nonprofit whose name means 'greatest potential.'

Together with founder Nancy Bell '09, Tong helped build an organization with three goals: Provide access to education in rural Latin America, help small agribusinesses expand into global markets, and offer experiential learning for Cornell students.

Bell's hometown--before matriculating to Tompkins Cortland Community College and then to Cornell--is El Rodeito, population 200, a Honduran community with one elementary school and little opportunity for kids to go beyond it. Mayor Potencial intends to build a high school there.

Channeling Cornell student ingenuity and enterprise to El Rodeito is the two-semester Social Entrepreneurship Field Study, offered through Applied Economics and Management. Winter break experiences in El Rodeito have students working closely with community members to develop practical, actionable recommendations for small businesses.

Before 2013, Tong thought she was just prepping for medical school. But the moment she met Nancy Bell, rural health and education became Tong's special issue. "I was immediately drawn to her passion and determination," Tong says. "She was grateful for her educational opportunities and wanted to give other students those opportunities.

This was something I could relate to." Tong, 22, says the HBHS program and a minor in policy analysis and management "prepared me to recognize that health problems are complex in origin. …

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