Founded in 1994, the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy is a private, non-profit school in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, that offers instruction from pre-school through high school. Since its inception with 80 students, the Academy has grown tremendously and currently serves approximately 200 students from varying backgrounds: indigenous, non-indigenous, poor, working, and middle class.
Jorge Chojolán was born a poor indigenous Mayan. Like many of his students, he confronted Guatemala’s deeply racist and sexist society and seemed destined to complete few, if any, years of formal schooling. Working several jobs, Jorge managed to support his siblings and complete high school.
Director Jorge Chojolan in the pre-school classroom – Photo by John Abernathy
In 1989, Jorge graduated from the University of San Carlos with a degree in economics. Determined to use his degree to help those failed by the existing public and private school systems, he and his wife Veronica founded the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy in 1994. He hoped to help the most vulnerable students by placing special emphasis upon poor and indigenous children and equipping them to transform their social reality. In 2000, Jorge was awarded the prestigious Ashoka Fellowship for his work at the Academy, the first Guatemalan to receive this recognition, distinguishing him as a “leading social entrepreneur; an extraordinary individual with unprecedented ideas for change in his community.” In 2018, he earned a Diploma in Educational Administration from the Da Vinci University of Guatemala.
Today, the school continues to offer a cost-effective and high-quality education to primary and secondary students in Quetzaltenango. In 2012, the Ministry of Education's standardized test results in math and reading for graduating seniors would have placed the Academy in the top 25 of 416 public and private schools if the school were located in the Guatemala City metropolitan area. In 2014, the Asturias Academy was awarded a $20,000 grant and named a Global Rising Star by the Stars Foundation of the United Kingdom, which recognizes “grassroots organizations that show real potential in their work to improve the lives of vulnerable children.” And in 2016, a study conducted by a University of San Carlos social worker found that 77% of the Asturias Academy’s 62 high school grads have pursued university studies, as compared with a national average of 3%. In addition, the study revealed that 26% of Academy's graduates have started a business.