Constuye Tus Suenos or in English Build Your Dreams is an initiative in the community economic development sector of the Peace Corps. It’s a business class that teaches entrepreneurism throughout the 14 sessions. Each session touches a different theme like market studies, sales strategies, and budget projections. As students progress through the course, learning about parts of the businesses, they progress writing their business plans. In my community I graduated 8 students.
When the class finishes we submit all the business plans and grade each one. The fifteen best plans in the country are invited to present their plans at the national conference and compete for the capital to start their businesses. Last year going to this conference was one of the highlights of my service. Seeing young people 16-29, supporting each other in such a professional atmosphere, believing and presenting their dreams was inspirational. This year I was even more excited because two of my students were selected to present!
We prepared for a month, revising the plans, making the powerpoint presentations and practicing and then practicing more. They put in a lot of hard work and when their names were called to present I think I know how mother’s feel. I was so nervous for them, I want to do it for them. They both presented better than any practice we had done and I was so proud. One judge even asked one of my girls a ton of questions, borderline attacking her and she stood up there and defended herself with a smile! I was beaming with pride. Along with my students 13 other nervous, prepared, hard-working students were presenting in other rooms.
Neither of my students did win the prize money but I’ve never been prouder of them. The course and writing the plans isn’t ultimately about winning the money. The course is about having passion for something, thinking it through, planning steps to make it happen, and then following through to make it happen. My students did this. They learned, opened their minds and were determined to present the best plans they could, and that’s exactly what they did.
The last day of the course one of the Dominican judges asked a Dominican student, “If your neighbor told you she wanted to be an astronaut, what would you tell her.” The student pretty quickly laughed and said, “NO, she can’t be”. The Dominican judge said, “of course because you all are from rural parts of the country you think you can’t be anything but the things close to you, or the same thing your father was.” He continued, “If I asked an American young person from the back woods of Kentucky if they could be an astronaut, you know what they would say. They’d say, Yes, because they believe they can be anything they want to be.”
To me this was what the conference was about. This judge couldn’t have made it clearer. In America were raised in this belief we can do and be anybody we want to be. Here there really isn’t that belief. Seeing my students from our tiny campo and students from all over the country start to believe in themselves and open their minds to new possibilities made all the hard work worth it.