Next in the “School Recap Series” is Virgen del Rosario. We started this school in 2012, after a search to expand the reach of Chicas Dinámicas to other areas of Cusco.
Our first introduction to Virgen was driving up several hills to reach a very small school with a beautiful view. About three people attended Caroline and Larkin’s going away fiesta – one regular participant, one who was too young to participate, and one younger brother, meaning they all got lots of cake! The girls were quite shy and a lot smaller than at some of the other schools because, with few students at Virgen, GSW extended its reach to 3rd grade to increase participation. Little boys hung around the school and attempted to get slices of cake and play with our equipment. We would soon realize that this was a common occurrence at this school.
For a long time, Virgen was one of our more troublesome schools. With little supervision and poorly behaving boys, class was tough. We chased boys around the court, attempting to recover our stolen sports equipment, to no avail. Every week posed a new challenge of trying to keep our cool in front of the girls, discipline the boys appropriately, and focus as much on our Chicas Dinámicas as possible. This reached an intolerable peak during our end of year party in December when the boys, yet again, tried to steal our food, spit on Alika, and tried to break down the door to the classroom where we sought refuge to enjoy our last class and make Christmas cards together. We knew that we were going to have to make some serious changes next semester. Yet, through these frustrations, we always had a loyal two girls in attendance, Diana and Milagros, and their smiles during class made us forget all of the other distractions for the moment.
We knew that having two girls every week wouldn’t be sustainable. Other girls in the school were qualified to attend our program, but we were unsure how to get them excited to join us. Through our first semester, we became more involved in school events, spoke with the profes and directores about solutions, and begged our girls to bring their friends. It wasn’t until we established a better line of communication with the administrators that we started to see results. Showing up to school events and checking in with administrators about our girls, getting to class early and telling them which new sport we were currently teaching, and discussing field trip options with them increased their faith in the program and our ability to engage with the community. Once they realized that we were well-intentioned, actively cared for the girls, and had established personal connections with each of them, they were more willing to help us with what we needed to succeed.
In March 2017, we had conversations with every Virgen teacher and asked for their support. We also moved class a bit earlier, so the current teachers could help manage the boys who liked to stick around after class. We nearly quadrupled our participation at this school, sometimes having upwards of 12 girls attend. We also reduced the amount of disruption from the boys. For Mother’s Day, we invited the moms to come on a rock climbing field trip with their girls so they could see how strong and confident their daughters were. It was a huge success, and many of the moms had a newfound appreciation for what we do in class, as well as how sports can affect their daughters positively. We grew more confident in building lasting relationships with not only our girls, but also Virgen’s community. We attended a Mother’s Day fiesta at the school and helped with the ceremony involving the students in the classroom police force, putting badges on students whose parents didn’t attend. It showed how far we had come in just a few months to have the honor of being so involved in the community.
We unfortunately haven’t been back to Virgen in more than six weeks due to the strike, and we aren’t sure if we’ll have a chance to say farewell to our chicas, but we are optimistic about the program’s trajectory. We can’t wait to hear how they are doing. For now, we want to give a few shoutouts:
Thank you, Diana and Milagros, for hardly missing class and for keeping us coming back every week through your enthusiasm! Thank you, Profe John, who has been a tireless supporter of GSW and helped us turn our program around at this school. And thank you to Mel, Hermalinda, Sarita, Christina, Mariela, Rosa, Carla, and Valeria for making the program what it was this semester. We will miss you guys so much next year, but have confidence you will continue with sports and continue being leaders in school!
¡Vamos a extrañarles!