Laurie was a senior when Elsa, a new exchange student from Mexico, enrolled at her high school. Just a few years prior, Laurie had been the new student at their private high school as a recipient of a scholarship. The two girls connected and became fast friends.
Several years later, Laurie visited Elsa in her hometown in Sonora, Mexico. Laurie’s hosts took a detour from the wealthier neighborhood where they lived to visit a poorer area of town. Then and there God put it on Laurie’s heart to someday give children living in poverty the same opportunity both she and Elsa had.
The key to new opportunities
The key to new opportunities in Mexico is an education. One of the most significant steps toward a good education is learning English. Colleges require students to score well in English just to graduate. But private English lessons are expensive and beyond the reach of most of those in lower income areas.
Laurie took the first steps toward her dream by starting a T-shirt business during college. Bit by bit she set aside funds always with an eye on her nonprofit dream. In 1992, idea became reality and New Opportunities for Education (NOE) in Morelia was born.
Today if you visit the city of Morelia on a Saturday night, you’ll see an explosion of fireworks above the main cathedral. That illustrates what’s happened since Laurie and two other couples began NOE.
What started as a small community opportunity teaching English to 34 kids has exploded. Over 1100 students attend before- and after-school programs at four different centers. They learn not only English but take art classes, music lessons and engage in sports programs.
The goal isn’t to make money but to give kids an advantage when it comes to life, so everything comes at an affordable cost. English classes for an entire trimester cost just $42 and art classes are $10. For families who can’t afford that, New Opportunities in Education (NOE) looks for Angels, sponsors who can underwrite educational opportunities.
What part does faith play?
“When children apply to NOE, we don’t ask them what their religion or church is. It’s a non-issue,” Brian Overcast, director of NOE says. Any child from any faith background is welcome.
And teaching English isn’t just an excuse to get kids in the door. The staff at NOE genuinely wants to help kids succeed in education. When staff look for teachers, they look for teachers that excel in teaching.
“We want to do what we do well. Ultimately, that’s giving children something that will help them whether or not they come to faith in Christ,” Brian says.
Once a week teachers introduce a Scripture verse in their classes. Students who express interest can join Explorers, a Christian-based kids club or go to youth group.
The biggest change
More than just numbers, the biggest change is in children, families and communities.
When most kids first arrive, they aren’t excited about this so-called “new opportunity”. After all, NOE means more school and school is boring, right? But after experiencing interactive learning and getting to know the teachers, students get excited about learning.
Seeing their child get excited and succeed is a gift the parents treasure. Parents love the energy they see at NOE and the focus on relationships. For them, hope is the center of NOE.
Many students have gone on to become doctors, engineers, and teachers. Juan Peralta and several other students teamed up to begin a local church. In addition to being a pastor, Juan serves as a director of one of NOE’s centers.
New opportunities in education do a world of good!