District 281 Alumni Makes Impact in Central America with “Future Roots Project”
A 2004 Armstrong graduate is making an impact in Central America. Since 2014, Jaime Belden has spent nine months a year teaching in Guatemala and Nicaragua.
Belden’s mission is to improve the quality of education for kids in those countries. Belden and a college classmate started the “Future Roots Project,” hoping to make things better by using bottle caps, paper plates and other sustainable solutions to teach kids in impoverished countries.
“I’ve been very well received in lots of different communities, even in different countries,” Belden said. “The project has grown from one teacher to 250 teachers. My plan was to originally go down for one year and work in one school and teach kids how to read. But the project has continuously grown.”
“Really, really smart kids”
Belden says students in Central America have untapped potential.
“Because these schools are in impoverished communities, we see everything from lack of water to lack of basic resources,” Belden said. “The schools don’t have principals or offices or cafeterias and gymnasiums or art classes. A lot of things that we would just consider normal parts of education are missing there.”
This is a labor of love for Belden and she fills many different roles.
“I actually go in and I do classroom visits,” Belden said. “In addition to giving teacher training where I share ideas with the teachers, I go into the classroom. I visit with the teachers and I help them implement the new ideas. It’s one thing to see it in training and it’s another thing to do something that’s never been done before.”
Thanks to a smartphone app, Belden is in constant communication with the teachers. They share ideas all year long.