Female gifted students from a dozen area schools came together for the 5G Jubilee, also known as “Gifted Girls Generously Giving Globally,” at the Boys & Girls Club in Malvern Thursday morning.

“Today, they’re going to learn a little bit about Peru, mostly about the Sacred Valley Project,” Wilson Intermediate G/T Instructor, Brenda Rush, said about the topic of the day’s gathering. “It’s a dorm program to help girls in the Andean villages access education, And then we are going to make Peruvian-themed items that will be sold later at our statewide Gifted Teacher Conference that will be held in February.”

Rush, Malvern Elementary GT/EAST Teacher Brigette Williams, and Hot Springs School District G/T Coordinator Laura West, along with other gifted educators, jointly created the 5G Jubilee event based on insights and information Rush brought back from a visit to Peru a few months ago, which she made as part of her involvement in the NEA Foundation’s Global Learning Fellowship.

The NEA Foundation picks one public school educator from each state annually to participate in multiple joint learning conferences and trips throughout their fellowship year—events designed to help American educators bring global awareness and appreciation to the public classroom.

Rush was picked as Arkansas’s representative for 2021, and her Fellowship group made a two-week long trip to Peru this past summer that included a special visit to Sacred Valley, where they were given a warm reception from the local Andean community, learned about many aspects of Peruvian life and culture, and met organizers from the Sacred Valley Project.

The Sacred Valley Project is a nonprofit organization based in Ollantaytambo, Peru, that was established to provide living quarters and access to secondary schooling to indigenous girls from remote Andean villages.

The project currently has around 50 girls enrolled from over 20 rural communities. The project provides a safe and nurturing home away from home, so these girls have access to the secondary education their rural communities lack.

Most young women in the remote areas of Peru only receive a fifth-grade education because the schools in rural Andean communities only teach up to that level. Only four in 10 Andean girls will graduate from secondary school.

Once children age out of their rural primary institutions, parents will sometimes send their young sons to other areas to pursue further education, but the obvious dangers associated with sending a young girl to another town or city alone usually means that females do not have the same educational opportunities as their male counterparts.

These girls often come from marginalized communities and limited finances, so the Sacred Valley Project is making a huge impact in the lives of the students they enroll.

The students participating in the Sacred Valley Project leave their remote residences to live in a dormitory and attend classes, either onsite or at a nearby secondary education school. They maintain vegetable gardens, make traditional crafts, commune and learn together in a supportive learning environment, and further their education through workshops, writing assignments, online forums, and community projects.

These girls ultimately discover they’re not alone in their dreams for a brighter future, and they often go on to universities and have great success achieving those dreams—a feat which may not have been possible without that essential access to secondary education the nonprofit provides.

Read the full story in Tuesday's Nov. 22 newspaper edition.

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