Changing the Statistics in Educational Attainment

Providing low-income youth and adults access to higher
education in Mato Grosso do Sul 

A round of 37 students from Instituto Luther King recently received news that they were accepted into public universities across Brazil. The areas of study range from Medicine to Physical Education, to Chemical Engineering, at universities like UFMS and UFPR. The Instituto (ILK), facilitates access to higher education for youths and adults in Campo Grande, MS, by providing pedagogical training to teachers who prepare students to pass the ENEM. At the moment 82 of the 140 of these students have received word of acceptance, but it is possible that more may still be accepted as the year moves on. On average, according to the Instituto, between 100 and 120 of the 140 students are accepted into university each year. 

What does this accomplishment mean for the students and ILK? For the students, who come from public schooling and are often the first ones in their family to complete their studies, it is a dream come true. It is equally exciting for ILK, who treat each student like “family”, according to Gisele Santos, “We receive each approval with lots of joy and a feeling of accomplishment…Each approval represents one barrier being overcome, many nights of study, and lots of sweat and tears along the way. We know that there is still a big divide between students from public schools and those of private, and just a short time ago low-income students were the minority in public universities…but nowadays that reality is changing. Every time one of our students enrolls in public university, we know that we are changing this statistic – even just a little – and this makes us happy.”

But what happens to the students after their studies have concluded? According to Gisele, a majority of ILK’s past students return to the Instituto to help out as volunteers or become involved in their communities in some sort of volunteer work. Some students even choose to continue their studies, pursuing Master’s or Doctoral degrees. No matter what they decide to do, their initial acceptance into university can change their future. “When a student is accepted, they understand that they can become whatever they want to be, that there are no longer limits to their dreams. Although they will pass through difficulties, they are on the right path. Many enter university already thinking about what they will do after, and how they will change their family’s life and their community”, Gisele notes.

ILK was first a BrazilFoundation grantee in 2014, but now receives continued support through the BrazilFoundation’s co-investment partnership with BVSA. The organization is also participating again this year as a “madrinha” in the Community Innovation Award.

Credit: Mazão