Leadership Development Academy

The Leadership Academy in Guatemala was implemented in 2005 for the first time to prepare students to enter the Leadership Development Program* (LDP) and find good candidates for the program.

a group of students

Maria, the former LDP Specialist in Guatemala who is now the LDP Specialist for the Central America and Caribbean region, says,

“We believe God wants students to be successful, and it is our goal, through the Leadership Academy, to help students rest on this promise and help them to be more prepared and confident as they start walking on the path God has for them at the university.

“The idea consisted of a leveling up camp called ‘Leadership Academy.’ Guatemala learned from the Dominican Republic’s experience … We adjusted their idea to our country’s needs and came up with a two-to three-week camp to offer tutoring, leadership training and orientation as the final stage of the selection process.”

The young men and women are at the academy for two to three weeks. They wake up every day at 6 a.m. and don’t go to bed until 10 p.m. They learn about topics such as how to manage their time, how to be more responsible, how to study, how to have a stronger spiritual life, and how to be a good leader.

They also learn more about math, physics, history, orthography and writing, and even about attending church. Devotionals are made as the day starts and as it ends, giving them the opportunity to strengthen their relationship with God.

After the camp, a report is compiled about all the participants by all the people that took part in the Leadership Development Academy: tutors, director, LDP specialists, etc. Then the LDP team takes the report to the advisory group that will guide them in making the final decision about which young men and women will enter the Leadership Development Program.

a teacher helping a student

The academy not only helps the LDP team select the leadership development students, but also helps to prepare the youths for what awaits them at university. Maria continues,

“After actively participating in the Leadership Development Academy, our new students will be better equipped regarding their level of cognitive, emotional and relational abilities to start their university and leadership development program challenges.

“They will also come out with stronger relationships as a group, and with their specialists, a foundation that can be built upon in the following years.”

Elvira, Cindy, Edgar, Julio, Edgar Geovani, Gladys and María shared with me their incredible testimonies.

A group of students

They shared their dreams of becoming a computer science engineer, a professional nurse, a mechanical engineer, a nutritionist, a theologian. Each has a unique story to share. Julio, 18, entered our child sponsorship program when he was 7 years old.

“With the help Compassion International gave me through my sponsors, I was able to finish my high school,” states Julio, who is the leader of a choreography group in his church and also works for the Bible Sunday School at his church in Petén, Guatemala.

Elvira has a different testimony from the others: She was in this academy last year, but was not admitted to the Leadership Development Program.

“I was not expecting a ‘no’ as an answer, but thanks to that, I now know what I really want from life and what I want to be: a professional nurse. If it was not for the ‘no,’ I perhaps would be studying something different … something wrong for what I now know is what I really want.”

Cindy is a bit more shy than the others at the beginning, but she then starts talking with a more secure tone in her voice. “I love to teach, but I want to become a computer science engineer,” she says. Cindy has a heritage of teaching as her parents are still teachers in her hometown, a village nearby.

Edgar is a young man with perhaps the hardest past experience among these seven young people. With tears he says, “People have told me I can’t do things. I have chosen to not believe them but still it is so hard for me.” His dream is to become a mechanical engineer.

Life for Gladys has been difficult, too, but thanks to Compassion International, she says she is a happy and very blessed person. Her dream is to study theology and after that, become a missionary.

María wants to become a nutritionist, and she has been in our program since she was 7 years old. “Compassion International has given me the chance to study and finish up my high school,” says María, whose nickname is “Luli.”

Edgar Geovani is a daring young man whose dream is to create his own mechanical devices. “If others are capable of inventing things, why not me? Why not?” he asks. His resolution leaves me impressed and mute. He is so ambitious!

Each of these students has experienced difficult times. As the interview was over, Julio said to me, with an urgent tone in his voice,

“I want you to know that some weeks ago I was assaulted. Those three burglars pulled out their guns after they searched me and yes, they attempted to shoot at me many times … but the guns got stuck!

“The thieves were confused and did not understand what was going on with their guns but I know what happened: God heard my prayers I made at that moment and guarded me from a certain death.”

I know Julio has found a special place before God’s eyes, and He has great plans for him!

Elvira has a different story to tell. Her dad was an alcoholic during her childhood and that caused many troubles at home with her mom and her siblings.

“When I accepted Jesus into my heart, I asked Him to change my dad. Time kept passing by and I did not see any changes in his life. There was a time my dad was really sick, and I thought he was going to die. I did not want that to happen to him and prayed hard for him to recover.”

Her dad made it and ever since, he quit drinking. “I now know God perhaps won’t answer right away, but he will answer in His time” says Elvira, with a wide smile on her face.

Edgar has also faced tough times. With his gaze always down as we talked, and tears he fought hard not to come, Edgar said,

“My past has been a hard one. My mom had to work in the local market and I was embarrassed by that because I had friends who had everything they wanted … and I did not.

“I always heard my friends saying that they went to watch a movie, that their parents bought them new toys, that their rooms had everything … I remained silent because my life was not even close to that.”

All of this could have made them abandon pursuing their dreams. But they still dream they have bright and promising futures, away from the oppression of poverty.

Each student who attended the Leadership Development Academy is perhaps praying at this very moment to get in, waiting for that phone call that will let them know if they will be part of the Leadership Development Program or not.

“We spend Christmas and New Year’s time pretty stressed waiting for the answer,” says one of the prospects. But, he adds, “This is worth it”.

*This content honors our historical Leadership Development Program. To learn more about our current youth development opportunities, click here.

12 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Vicki Small February 2, 2009

    Thank you, Maria!

  2. Maria Fernanda Madriz February 2, 2009

    Vicki and Luann,

    The Leadership Academy has been done in Dominican Republic, Haiti and Guatemala. However, there are camps available at the child sponsorship students’ level, intended to help them grow spiritually, academically, emotionally, etc. The Leadership Academy goes deeper in some of these topics since LDP students face a whole different reality (different people, philosophies, religions, professors methods, etc.) once they enter university. The academy’s intent is to get the participants focused as they start this new stage in their lives.

  3. Chris Giovagnoni January 28, 2009


    I apologize for the delay in getting an answer to your question. The person I thought could answer it has been out of the country for a while. When she got back (today), she directed me to someone else. She is out of the office until Feb. 2

  4. Luann Marzinzik January 22, 2009

    The academy sounds like a great program to help students prepare
    for LDP. I would like to know what countries have simular programs. Our oldest sponsor child, whom we met this past June is in Colombia. We have encouraged her all we can to set her goals high and strive for the LDP program and that we would be behind her all the way. It’s so amazing and uplifting to meet and talk with an LDP student.

  5. Sarah Markham January 21, 2009

    May the Lord bless Compassion International and the work they are doing with the LDP!! You are changing so many lives with what you are doing not just the lives of the students in the program!! 🙂

  6. Vicki Small January 9, 2009

    I’m sorry, my second paragraph was based on an impression that the academy experience is available only to children who are nearing graduation from CDSP. If it is available to younger children who are deemed to have the potential for qualifying, that is great!

    I’m wondering whether all of the countries that have LDP do the academy thing.

  7. Juli Jarvis January 9, 2009

    Thanks for sharing about these very impressive young men and women! My sponsored child in Thailand also attended leadership camps like this through the years, and then was accepted to the Leadership Development Program. She now helps with the younger students at the camps.

  8. Steve K. January 9, 2009

    I love the third group picture! It says, mature, fun and shows a bit of spunk in their personalities!

  9. Sara Benson January 9, 2009

    I think that this is a great idea! The transition from secondary school to university is a huge transition. This type of camp would be a huge benefit.

    Thank you for telling us the testimonies of the students. I am sure that this is something that their future sponsors would love to hear as well. I am praying for wisdom for those who have to make the final decision of acceptance into LDP.

  10. Vicki Small January 9, 2009

    The Academy is a great idea. Even in the U.S., there are programs to help some high-school students make the transition to college.

    Yet, I would ask why “topics such as how to manage their time, how to be more responsible, how to study, how to have a stronger spiritual life . . .” are not taught to students at the CDSP level; or are they?

    And I pray for the day when the LDP has been started in every country where Compassion works, and every able and deserving student is able to participate. I believe that is also Compassion’s long-term goal.

  11. Gin January 9, 2009

    My child Hilda is in Guatemala — I loved reading this story!

  12. Sarah January 9, 2009

    I hope they all get in!

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