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Starfish Impact School

Escuela Estrellita (Little Star School), a five-month preparatory program, acts as an introduction to the unique, rigorous programming the Girl Pioneer and her family will experience in the Starfish Impact School (SIS). Weekly meetings with a mentor or teacher introduce her to the core competencies integral to the school experience, provide some basic introduction to academics, and furnish a space to begin developing a peer support network with other participants.

SIS represents Guatemala’s first academically rigorous 21st century secondary school designed, led, and run by indigenous women for indigenous women. This bold group of visionary leaders has been rigorously innovating and preparing local staff for almost three years.

Similarly, the school’s leadership (also local, female, and Mayan) has received extensive access and training to support its own definition of a school culture that integrates a complex but essential combination of rigorous high expectations, competencies for success, and a clear sense of indigenous identity in an increasingly globalized world.

All are keenly aware of the inadequacies of the traditional education system and are redefining the role of educator in rural Guatemala. This preparation process includes peer-to-peer mentoring, in-depth training, content coaching, and hands-on classroom experience from global experts and innovators. The school’s success will be defined by its students’ abilities to access and navigate a truly choice-filled life.

The uniquely developed content and progressive teaching techniques ensure rigorous high-quality education in a country where rote learning is the norm. Consultants and methodologies were sourced from organizations all over the world such as KIPP charter schools, Contextos in El Salvador, and GALS (Girls Athletic Leadership Schools) in Denver.

SIS will operate grades 7-12 (all six years of secondary school). It takes six months to identify and select each incoming class of 50 students, who come from rural villages outside the city of Sololá. In January 2017, SIS opened its doors to the first cohort of 7th grade Girl Pioneers. By 2022, there will be 300 Girl Pioneers and families in the school (approximately 2400 people).

SIS’s design and objectives are divided into three pillars. Each pillar is the product of external expert consultation and local acculturation and innovation.

Pillar 1: Rigorous Academics

Pillar 2: Community Engagement

Pillar 3: School Culture to Sustain Success

The “glue” that binds these three pillars is a school culture that fosters the deliberate practice and mastery of six competencies—academic excellence, critical thinking, growth mindset, intercultural network, resilience, and vocal empowerment. 

Upon graduating from the Starfish Impact School and the mentorship program, the Girl Pioneers are not alone. Through the New Horizons graduate program, young women receive support through the next phase of their goal achievement.

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

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