Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Learning the Keys to Success

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Learning the Keys to Success

Article excerpt

Byline: Avi Richman

Blanca Melissa Saenz is an intelligent, hard-working, humble 15-year-old student from a rural community between the Nicaraguan cities of Granada and Masaya. She, along with many of her classmates, sometimes walks more than an hour in the midday heat just to get to and from Bertha Pacheco High School. Most of the kids from these rural communities never make it to high school because of extreme poverty in the area. They are forced to make a living selling in the markets or working in the agricultural fields.

In spite of various educational obstacles such as a lack of textbooks and computer access, minimal family support and unreliable water and electricity, Blanca, along with five of her classmates, just competed in the national business competition of La Empresa Creativa, the Creative Enterprise Project.

This joint entrepreneurial project of the Peace Corps and the Ministry of Education pairs local teachers and Peace Corps volunteers like me to teach fourth-year high school students how to create, open and administer an innovative, viable business. Blanca and her five classmates are the co-founders and owners of Telantro, a successful business that makes, packages and sells a variety of teas, with cilantro tea being the principal product.

After winning local and regional competitions, Telantro traveled to the Holiday Inn in Managua, Nicaragua's capital, to present their business before a panel of judges, and an audience that included their peers and student entrepreneurs, vying to win first prize.

They had already bested some very creative businesses in the regional competition, such as Sillas Mochilas, backpacks that doubled as chairs; CYMA, a home-based recycling center for plastic products; and a group that wove and transformed littered plastic bags into artisan bags.

Now they were up against even stiffer competition with products such as natural honey shampoo, portable desks and backpacks with attached waterproof gear. …

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