By Shermakaye Bass
Matagalpa, Nicaragua — Yaritza Dolores Muñoz Gutierrez doesn’t like numbers. She adores them. Solving mathematical problems is as natural to her as social-media networking is to most of her generation. She says accounting intrigues her, inspires her.
And soon enough, the language of numbers will be her life’s work.
“Math can be difficult and complicated,” says the 21-year-old Matagalpan, “because it’s all a matter of squaring things out. If one part is missing, the whole equation falls apart, it doesn’t work. It’s like a puzzle that you have to solve.”
Yaritza’s passion for arithmetic has earned her a full university scholarship from Fara Foundation, making her a pioneer on several levels. The daughter of coffee-farm laborers, Yaritza is Fara’s first college-level scholarship recipient. When she graduates the University of Northern Nicaragua in January of 2013, she will be the first member of her family to finish high school and the first to receive a college degree. Not surprisingly, she chose to pursue a Bachelor’s of Science in accounting.
“I’m in my fifth year now. I’ve always wanted to be an accountant,” Yaritza told us recently, visiting Fara Foundation’s offices in between classes. “With a degree, I can help my mother with our income. I can also help other people who need someone they can trust.”
Vivacious and fiercely focused, Yaritza was among several public high school students in the Matagalpa area who were considered by Fara Foundation, which supports regional education programming. Requirements for our scholarship included: consistent high marks (a 3.0 GPA or above throughout high school); commitment to their community; desire to make a difference in their field of study (“there are a lot of crooked accountants,” Yaritza told us, “we need professionals who will help, and not take from, the people who are employing them”); and the belief that they can make their and family’s lives better.
When asked why a college education was so important to her, our young scholar didn’t hesitate: “It’s to work and be able help my mother, because it’s something she deserves. This is all for my mom.”
Yaritza is no stranger to Fara. She attended the public elementary school Escuela San Francisco, adjacent to one of Fara Coffee’s fincas — a school that our founders have helped to fund for many years. Even back then, teachers noticed Yaritza’s exceptional talent for math and problem solving. They noticed that adding, subtracting and squaring numbers was as easy to her as learning the “A-B-C’s” was to others. She later attended high school at the Instituto Nacional Autonomo de San Ramon and graduated with honors.
“Up to now, I’ve never failed a class,” says Yaritza, shyly but proudly. “I’ve made 80 percent or above all my life.”
As she positions herself to enter the work world, Yaritza’s talent and determination play into a larger picture, however. “It’s most important for me to be ethical, to give the best of myself and to help others. That’s what matters most. … I would like to work for a good company. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a big one or small, as long as it’s an honest one. All I know is, you take one step at a time. You start with the small and you go where it takes you.”
This summer, Yaritza is off to a good start. She’s participating in “social service” required by her program at University of Northern Nicaragua, working as an unpaid intern for the City of Matagalpa’s accounting department.
“I already like it,” she says, beaming. That smile is worth a million words, or numbers.