By Donna Parker
Ron Fortin received a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Trinity in 2008, but for right now, he is back in school in a way he never expected. Last December, Ron packed his bags and headed for Antigua—not the island, but the small mountain village in Guatemala, where he became the principal of the Scheel Center for children who are among the “poorest of the poor” in Central America.
“A friend of mine was in this position and had made up his mind to leave. I came to visit him and after that, he said in a coffee shop on my last day here—‘God is telling me that you need to quit your job and move down here!” says Ron.
“Flattered, I thanked him, mentioning that many things needed to change before I could make a move of that magnitude. But, when I returned home to San Antonio, every excuse simply evaporated. Now, I find myself working 80 hours a week for minimal pay, but loving every minute of it.”
Ron had been commuting to Dallas as an IT consultant, flying back and forth each week from his home in San Antonio. As soon as his plane landed in Guatemala, he had the exact feeling as when he joined the Marines some years back. It was, “What did I get myself into?”
And, there was some homework to do on his part.
“I knew no Spanish, but studied the language with a Spanish teacher via Skype for six weeks.”
The school serves first through ninth graders and is located in one of “the most desperate neighborhoods” in Guatemala. As noted on its Web site, the center’s mission is “quality education, healthcare, and family development for the region’s poorest children.” Ron, a former Marine and marketing advisor, is up for this new challenge.
“I see my role as a trainer of young leaders—to come in with new ideas, question the status quo and provide an overall strategy of improvement. I do have a dean of education who is my right-hand guy. He works closely with the teachers and knows how the cultural aspects really operate down here.”
To better chronicle his adventures in Antigua, Ron has started a video log (Vlog) and invites his fellow Trinity alumni to view it and catch up on his life in Central America. http://filipinoinguatemala.wordpress.com/2010
The hours are long, but Ron does take some of his free time to explore the new surroundings and has found he loves to be outdoors; hiking, climbing up a volcano and using lava to roast marshmallows!
“Antigua is really a beautiful and historic city immersed in Spanish architecture with cobblestone streets and atrium style buildings. The restaurants have amazing views of the mountains. It’s a great place to sit in the park and absorb the culture.”
When asked how Trinity prepared him for these bumps in the road of life, Ron has a ready answer.
“Trinity was a huge blessing. In college you are packing your bags—stuffing them and you don’t know why. On your journey, you unpack and figure out what you’ve had in there. That’s something Edwin Parker, adjunct instructor in the department of music, taught us.”
“Also, Dr. Charlene Davis, department of business administration, really allowed me to think outside the box and if she felt we had a good idea, we could run with it and create new concepts. In one class, my team and I created a fictitious product for an existing company that we could actually take to the market. And, Craig Wilson, department of business administration, I love the guy as a mentor and friend. He’s well-mannered and put together. Because he was a Harvard Business School graduate, we learned from him about venture financing and how capital actually flows.”
“There were so many opportunities at the school because of its small size—leadership, travel experience, and the advantage of getting to know people. Truly, it pushed me to become a visionary.”
You may email Ron at email@example.com.