Support Us
Initiatives » Starfish » Her Infinite Impact


Starfish Impact School

For an indigenous young woman in rural Guatemala, accessing a quality education is a rare feat. According to the 2013 Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum, only 44 percent of women in Guatemala are enrolled in secondary school. For indigenous women, this statistic is even more startling—only 10 percent of indigenous girls who live in rural communities are enrolled in secondary school, and less than one percent continue on to university.

The average Mayan teenage girl in Guatemala has obtained only 3.5 years of education, and the average Mayan adult only 2.5 years.

Since 2008, Starfish has operated a successful wraparound program—thus far, 130 Starfish Girl Pioneers have graduated from high school, with 57 percent of past graduates enrolled in university or taking classes and 85 percent employed outside the home. While graduates of our current program have reached incredible heights academically and socially, the implications of the severely substandard Guatemalan educational system are noticeable. Nationally, only 10 percent of high school graduates meet international standards of literacy, and only 8.5 percent reach the standards of math comprehension (Guatemalan Ministry of Education). Schools in rural Guatemala lack both quality and quantity. These debilitating factors severely impede each young woman’s ability to realize her full potential as a productive employee, social changemaker, and leader.

To address this issue, Starfish has embarked on a new journey to launch our first all-girl secondary school in January 2017. We believe that by combining our intentional, holistic program with highly trained educators and a rigorous academic model, our Girl Pioneers will have the opportunity to truly realize their infinite impact.

The Starfish Impact School will begin with a cohort of 40 carefully selected seventh-grade students from Sololá and will expand by one grade level each year, through 12th grade. Though our mission and measurable objectives will remain identical to those of our current wraparound program, we have identified seven core competencies that will serve as a Girl Pioneer’s passport to access the opportunities of the 21st century:

  • – Academic excellence
  • – Critical thinking
  • – Growth mindset
  • – Intercultural communication
  • – Resiliency
  • – Vocal empowerment

To learn more about how you can engage with the development of the Starfish Impact School, please contact Jo French at

University Access

In the effort to answer the question “How far can she go?” and reach our goal of ensuring that each Girl Pioneer obtains 15+ years of education, Starfish provides support to every girl who wishes to pursue post-secondary educational opportunities.

Through the Quetzal Fund (QF), launched by Ted and Connie Ning in February 2015, Starfish provides full-ride university scholarships to many of the top 10 percent of Starfish graduates. The mission of this fund is to ensure that high-achieving Starfish students can pursue post-secondary education, regardless of their economic circumstances. We aim to prepare young women to become agents of change in their communities, their country, and our world.

In addition to the Quetzal Fund, we partner with a range of organizations—She’s the First, Progressa, and FEPMaya—to provide external university scholarships to all Starfish students who wish to pursue post-secondary educational opportunities. We employ a full-time staff member who works one on one with Girl Pioneers to navigate the complexity of scholarship applications and university enrollment.

In 2015, 15 Girl Pioneers received full-ride scholarships to attend university through the Quetzal Fund and our partner organizations. If you wish to make a direct contribution to our university scholarship program, please click here. If you prefer to send a check, please make a note that your donation is restricted to “university scholarships.” Thank you for your support!

Economic Participation

Starfish aims to ensure that our graduates find employment in the formal sector and earn more than the per capita annual income in Guatemala ($3,500/year) after graduating from high school. In order to reach these goals, we support our students and graduates through formal internships.

Nothing informs career direction more than firsthand experience. However, Girl Pioneers come from families that lack both experience in the formal job sector and the networks to support their daughter’s job search. Starfish coaches address this need by matching Girl Pioneers with paid three- to six-month internships with other social impact organizations. Partner organizations with larger organizational capacity often cover the cost of the entire internship salary (typically $125/month). When Starfish works with partner organizations that have smaller budgets, we will often cover half or all of the cost of the internship wage.

Of the 30 internships completed by high school students and graduates in 2015, roughly 85 percent were carried out in local NGOs, schools, or health clinics. Several high school graduates who completed internships in 2015 were invited to extend their internships or accept formal salaried positions.

Also, through our New Horizons program, Starfish graduates who wish to launch their own businesses have access to trainings and guidance from our full-time small business consultant. The Starfish consultant guides graduates through every step of the process and connects them with opportunities for seed funding. To date, Starfish graduates have opened and continue to operate seven small businesses, several of which focus primarily on social entrepreneurship.

We look forward to assisting graduates as they continue to find formal employment in 2016!


Chispa (Spark) Action Network

The Chispa Action Network (CAN) creates and fosters compelling social capital to unlock the power of young women to catalyze transformational change. CAN is designed to create a community of transformational young female leaders throughout Guatemala. In partnership with many of Guatemala’s leading schools and organizations, the network brings together the most amazing young women in the country who exhibit a proven chispa (“spark”).

Back to Top