Commemorating Our Past. Celebrating the Future. Honoring Our Students.

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A Powerful Day of Celebration and Gratitude

Over the years at Reading Village, we’ve created an annual tradition: at the end of the year, each community holds an event to celebrate their teens’ achievements – including graduating from the program and from high school.

Because this was to be our final closing ceremony, this year’s festivities were especially profound for everyone involved, and particularly moving for me. The students and community members centered this year’s closing ceremony around the themes of gratitude and celebration. Gratitude for you: far-flung members of the extended Reading Village family; and celebration of our students’ profound accomplishments in the face of adversity and difficulty.

For lack of time, I could only attend one ceremony, so I chose to go to Concepción, where we founded our Leaders and Readers Program. As I walked to the school for the event, I was stunned to see a giant, yellow school bus decked out in balloons, palm fronds (like they do for weddings), and a sign that read “Promoters from Chaquijya.” 

The staff and teens had surprised me, and I teared up as we arrived at the school, where approximately 200 parents, children, teens, alumni and former staff from every community we serve poured out of buses and minivans to come together for this celebration.

These amazing people came together with pride to celebrate all that has been accomplished, and to unite in carrying forward the work that Reading Village began.

The teens had organized everything: the floor of the courtyard had been carpeted with pine needles, signifying a special occasion. Streamers hung overhead and little Reading Village logos that had “hasta siempre” (forever) written on them dangled above our heads.

When I was given time during the ceremony to speak, I noted that I was there not only on my own behalf, but that I represented you: board members and staff past and present, as well as thousands of donors. I relayed our pride in the perseverance and hard work of our students, and our gratitude for the support of their families and communities.

I believe that anyone who voluntarily acts to improve their community is a leader: one who picks up trash, attends a community meeting, reads to a child.

In conclusion, I noted the sea of leaders I saw in front of me, and handed over responsibility for the continuation of promoting literacy to them.

The communities sat in sections, and one at at time sent their youth leaders to the stage to perform a traditional or modern dance, or a poem they had written about how literacy changes lives. Then I would be called to the stage on your behalf to receive words of profound gratitude, and a woven gift from parents representing each community.

Finally, graduates and teens received their diplomas, beaming parents took photos, and we shared a delicious lunch.

It was an unforgettable, powerful day.

For a long time, I’ve held a vision of our communities working together for mutual progress. It was a dream come true to see people from all our communities in one place, celebrating what has been achieved, and sharing the commitment to continue promoting literacy.


Linda Smith
Founder, Reading Village

Donate today to support youth education and leadership development in Guatemala.

4 thoughts on “Commemorating Our Past. Celebrating the Future. Honoring Our Students.

  1. Congratulations Linda!

    Who will follow in your footsteps?

    I cannot donate more, unfortunately, my savings are diminishin.

  2. Linda, this was powerful. I am so impressed that you were I entrusted with this undertaking to realize the need of literate education in Guatemala. I understand you and Larry had been in Guatemala where the seed was planted. You dedicated part of your life to create possibility for this people. I remember the hesitation of parents in the initiation of Reading Village. Many years later, what a difference. Parents applauding the graduation of their children and the possibility each graduate/student holds.
    My heartfelt congratulations for you taking the step to dedicate your time and effort in this project.

  3. Sounds like a great day Linda. You should be very proud because of all the wonderful changes that have taken place in the lives of all involved in Reading Village!!

    Thanks for sharing!