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Hector de la Cruz, 20

2012 Graduate — Studied Sustainable Tourism — Service Manager at Bugamama Restaurant

Hector grew up in a one-room hut in the village of Lagunita, on the Rio Dulce, where his father grows corn and fishes to feed the family. He is the eldest of seven children. His mother never went to school and his father had to drop out after third grade. Hector’s father worked as a volunteer on the construction of the Ak’ Tenamit clinic and other buildings, and when Hector finished sixth grade, he was accepted to study at Ak’ Tenamit’s Fr. Tom Moran Education Center.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity that Ak’ Tenamit has given me, and the sacrifice my father made to let me study instead of helping him farm,” Hector said. “I want to work hard and give money to my parents to help my brothers and sisters. I love working in the restaurant, because you get to meet so many people,” he said. “My dream is to one day study tourism at a university, and come back to this area to teach the young people."

Hector’s father, Samuel de la Cruz, said that Ak’ Tenamit has improved life in local villages, but that there is little work in the area. He explained that he struggled to pay the 100 quetzals ($13) per month, or donate the equivalent in corn, that Ak’ Tenamit requires parents to contribute. He was unable to send his second oldest son, who finished sixth grade in 2011, to Ak’ Tenamit until after Hector graduated, because he couldn’t afford to pay 200 quetzals per month.

“It was hard for me to send Hector to Ak’ Tenamit, and I know Hector worked hard to complete his degree," said his father. "It wasn’t easy for him. He never had money to buy a soda, or a snack. It has been hard to pay for Hector to study, but he is our future. He is now going to help his sister study nursing. We didn’t have these opportunities when I was young, but I want all my children to become professionals.”