José Danilo shows what can be accomplished when kids are given a chance. Danilo is from the Chorti Maya people in La Estanzuela, an aldea in the mountains outisde of Copán. Aldeas are small, rural farming communities where people are very poor and lacking in the resources one might find in a larger town.
Years ago, when a sponsor offered the community some scholarships for their children to attend Mayatan, they chose José Danilo as a local child whom they thought was promising. Even still, Danilo must occasionally help out on his family's milpa growing food or help the family earn money for clothing and basic needs by picking coffee at 200 Lempira ($10) for 6 full days of work. To put things in even starker perspective, José's family lives a grueling 2-hour walk uphill and across the river from Copán. A taxi ride home from town would cost him 150 Lempiras, nearly an entire week's wage.
A current 11th grader, Danilo has been a scholarship student throughout his career at Mayatan Bilingual School. Because of the distance to and from his home and school, José Danilo stays in Copán during the week. His parents are subsistence farmers who neither read or write. Their son will graduate with a U.S. high school diploma speaking two languages. This in only one generation, which is an amazing achievement.
In addition to being a tenacious student, José Danilo has an aptitude for storytelling. Mayatan teacher John Weber lent José Danilo a notebook computer, and he is writing about his village. One of his essays will appear in a literary journal in the states. You can read a draft of "Hard Work on the Farm" here, which tells of life working with his father growing corn.
Keep up the good work, Danilo; you're making all of us proud!