Our organization had its beginnings in 1974 when a group of chief school administrators in Bucks County, Pennsylvania began working with the Office of Overseas Schools of the U.S. Department of State and the International Schools Services in Princeton, New Jersey. Its purpose was to provide consultants and services for schools, colleges and universities abroad.

Our founding fathers were men of great vision. They designed an organization with a strong mission statement that has guided us as we continue to enhance and extend their original concept. Promoting the appreciation and understanding of diverse cultures by supporting the educational community in Guatemala is still paramount as we continue their mission. This mission is recognized by the United States and Guatemalan Governments.

Since the inception of the visiting professor program in 1977 that included about ten Bucks Fellows, as they were later called, the program continues to grow. The one hundred eighty professional staff members that now come under the umbrella of Bucks Fellows are comprised of elementary and secondary teachers, school administrators, physicians, health educators, scientists, librarians, and directors of public relations. These Bucks Fellows are placed in all the schools we serve.

With the design of the Literacy Program in 2004, we began conducting workshops for teachers and administrators in the highlands and the south coast. These workshops are still presented annually to offer the best practices in the field of reading, writing, and thinking. During 2004 and 2005, Board Members arranged to have a dozen Guatemalan teachers visit Pennsylvania. During that time, they were able to observe the education system in the public schools and attend a state Reading Conference at Bloomsburg University.

As another part of the Literacy Program, a Distribution Day designed for giving books and school supplies to children in public schools helps support our mission. Since the beginning of the program, over sixty thousand pieces of children’s literature have been placed in the hands of children for personal ownership. Seven hundred bags are filled each year with books and supplies. Tubs filled with supplies to enhance the teaching-learning process are given to the teachers at the same time. In 2015, the Board added a preschool with an enrollment of over six hundred students to the Distribution Day.

The Scholarship Program donates six thousand dollars annually to indigenous women enrolled for a teaching degree at the university level. These funds are distributed on as need basis.

The eleven member Board of Directors work year round to make a difference in the lives of the children and teachers in the public schools in Guatemala. We have continued the vision of our founding fathers and have cemented our relationships with the administrators in all the schools we serve. We truly believe that our efforts have continued—and will continue—to make a positive difference in the educational climate.

Vera A. Derk, President, BCOIA

Education in Guatemala