From Scamp to Scholar

From Scamp to Scholar

By: Brandy Campbell with Henry Gurian in Colombia   |   Posted: August 21, 2006

Jennifer Herrara graduates to Compassion's LDP program with a new outlook on life
After growing up in poverty-stricken Colombia, Jennifer is studying to be a doctor while attending college through Compassion's Leadership Development Program.

As a child Jennifer Herrara was a self-proclaimed rebel. A bright, inquisitive girl, Jennifer was easily bored in the coastal city of Escallon Villa-Olaya, Colombia, and that boredom often led to mischief. The child developed a penchant for arguing with her parents and fighting with her siblings. While this behavior may seem innocent enough, Jennifer's mother worried her daughter's defiance would escalate into delinquency without a structured school environment. But living on about $2 a day doesn't leave much room to pay for school fees and supplies.

A New Creation

Fearful that her young daughter might end up pregnant and homeless like many of the young women in Escalon, Onilda brought 7-year-old Jennifer to the Compassion-assisted Misioneros de Dios Student Center (CO-520). Neighbors had told her the program could provide an education for little Jennifer, and every morning when Onilda sent her daughter off to the project she prayed they were right.

Jennifer thrived under the care of the project workers and tutors at the student center. Each afternoon she would attend the Misioneros' after-school program, and she flourished under the extra attention she received there. She won a scholarship to a private high school for her excellent grades, and was named one of the top students in her class. Jennifer studied hard, and was an inspiration to her two younger siblings, who proclaimed that they wanted to be just like her when they grew up. Jennifer also accepted Christ when she was a teenager. Her passion was contagious, and with joy she saw her brother and sister receive Christ.

The Impossible Dream

Although Jennifer had seen her entire life changed at the Compassion project, there was still one more thing she wanted to accomplish - college. She knew getting a college degree would open doors for her that nobody in her family had ever dreamed of.  She also understood that it would take a miracle for her to pay university fees.

Jennifer's miracle came in the form of Compassion's Leadership Development Program (LDP). Designed to help graduates of the Child Sponsorship Program, those accepted into the LDP are assisted with tuition, fees, books, and room and board. Students like Jennifer are paired with Christian mentors who help with the transition from high school to college.

Providing a Better Life

Jennifer is now majoring in cystology (the study of cells and tissues) at the Fundacion Technologica Autonoma in Bogota. She hopes to one day work in the poorest areas of Colombia and provide treatment to those suffering from cancer, the second-leading cause of death in the country. 

"I want to use the tools I learn in college to help my community, my town and my country," says Jennifer. "I would like to establish a health center and show the community that they can have a better life."

Though the shift from her home to a city of more than 7 million has been a struggle, Jennifer says the trials are nothing compared with the triumphs.

"LDP has really changed my life," says Jennifer. "It has been a big opportunity and a blessing for me and my family. I took the risk to come here to the university and I fulfilled my dream."

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