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  HOME | Colombia (Click here for more)

From Notorious Neighborhoods to Colombia’s Finest Universities

CALI, Colombia – Four young people, natives of the poorest, most infamous areas of Cali and now promoters of social projects from music to human rights to LGBT collectives, have set an example of self-improvement by making their dream of studying at one of Colombia’s finest universities come true.

Carlos Jair Guaza, now set to receive his diploma in Business Administration; Ximena Mosquera, already a practicing attorney; Jennifer Silva, about to graduate in Political Science; and Diana Sofia Trochez, with a degree in Sociology, are leading figures in the success stories currently being exhibited by the Youth and Peace Construction Fund, created by the BBVA bank and the Visible Hands Corporation.

Thanks to this project, also supported by Icesi and Eafit Universities, young people of Cali and Medellin with backgrounds of outstanding social work can obtain admission to these centers of higher education.

Carlos, Ximena and Diana from the district of Aguablanca, one of the poorest and most dangerous in the southwestern Colombian city of Cali, along with Jennifer, brought up in the also notorious slum of Siloe, were benefited in 2012 with scholarships that got them into Icesi University, considered one of the nation’s best.

“These days, despite all the difficulties, I have what I want,” said Carlos, who manages the Union Theater on behalf of its governing authority, Cali City Hall.

At age 34, Carlos continues to accumulate an enviable social record after working in black communities and promoting projects related to hip hop, cultural business ventures and programs like “healthy rumba.”

His scholarship was a “reward” for years of social work, said Carlos, now married with a baby, and who recalled that because he immersed himself so much in “community processes,” he fell behind in his studies, which worried his mom, who for years worked as a housemaid.

Another who benefited from a scholarship is Ximena Mosquera, who has achieved the goal that she had set for herself when studying Law at Icesi.

“I entered university when I was 28,” said Ximena, now 35, who has dedicated her law practice to such organizations as the Young Mediators Association and the Cali Chamber of Commerce.

For her part, Jennifer took her Political Science degree at Icesi after her experience with Lesbiapolis, an association she founded together with a friend and from which she led activities against gender violence and to instill respect for human rights.

Diana, meanwhile, who finished her studies at age 23 and now works in Icesi, benefited early on from guitar and piano studies in the educational Juan Bosco Corporation, where she moved on to monitoring and later teaching workshops, heading educational projects for children and currently as a field coordinator.

Now a sociologist, she achieved that title with a degree thesis about female gang members in Commune 14, in which she analyzed the “historically depressed state” of that district, where, Diana said, there are families “who, if they have food for breakfast, they won’t have any for lunch.”


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