Luis Fernando Alva Cifuentes, a student at CUNOROC-USAC studying Fruit Production

As one of five children of a single mother in Huehuetenango, Luis Fernando Alva Cifuentes draws motivation to succeed from his family. His family has inspired his dedication to his studies, as his mother and older sister have helped Luis throughout secondary school, ensuring he was able to earn scholarships and awards. After finishing secondary school in 2018, Luis was ready to continue his studies at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG), applying for a degree in physical education. Despite his achievements and motivation, however, Luis was unable to attend university because his family was unable to support him.

Although he wasn’t able to attend UVG, Luis remembers 2018 as a turning point for him and his family. It was the year he applied for the Advance scholarship, which allowed him to attend Universidad San Carlos de Guatemala at CUNOROC (CUNOROC-USAC), where he is studying Fruit Production. Luis says that the scholarship has not only allowed him to continue his studies without struggling financially, but also helped him to expand his knowledge and redefine his definition of success. By offering him the opportunity to continue studying and working, the Advance Program has taught Luis to be patient and persistent and introduced him to new ideas.

Luis credits the Advance Program’s ‘triple helix’ learning model of Universities/Industry/Government with preparing him for his career after university. By participating in workshops, trainings, conferences, volunteer work, industry tours and professional internships, Luis has expanded his professional networks and knowledge of the agricultural industry. These experiences have opened many doors and future opportunities.

Additionally, the Advance Program scholarship has helped Luis gain concrete skills. Through the Program, Luis has studied English, a vital skill for professionals that prepares him for a competitive job market. The Program has also helped Luis create positive relationships. Luis works closely with the Advance Program staff to enhance his understanding of the jobs he is interested in and build marketable skills to reach his goals. The Advance Program staff have helped Luis persevere through challenges and solve the problems that arise. Luis credits the Program’s support and faith in his abilities with teaching him to “not be afraid, to break down barriers, and to keep his eyes on a goal,” resulting in his new perspective and approach to his career. 

Perhaps the most valuable element of the Advance Program scholarship for Luis has been the motivation to continue working towards his dreams. Luis is one semester away from graduating from his degree program. In the five semesters that he has worked with the Program, Luis feels the Advance Program has cared for his academic and personal success, providing a sense of stability throughout his experience that has allowed Luis to reach his maximum academic potential.