A place to learn: Alumna helps build a new future for Peruvian children

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

By Laura Mast

Andrea Ardiles followed the path of many School of Civil and Environmental Engineering students after graduation: she walked out of the classroom and straight into a job in her field. In her case, the job was in her native Peru, designing and building hydropower plants for MWH Global.

And one day, she gave it all up.

The best plans are a long time in the making, and Ardiles wasn’t simply walking away from her civil engineering job. She was diving into a cause she’d been dabbling with for years.

“Even when I was at Tech, I was thinking about these ideas of, what can I do to improve the education system in my country?” Ardiles said recently from her office in Lima. “It was very hard to figure out how to do it, so I just kept going with my regular engineering path.”

Then, one day, she realized she could start to have impact by going back to the beginning, to the very foundations of education: the classroom.

So that’s exactly what she did.


The ribbon-cutting in Ventanilla, Peru, for the first classroom Learning Goal built. (Photo Courtesy of Learning Goal.)

 

Ardiles, B.S. 2012, founded Learning Goal along with Jorge Ramirez, M.S. 2012, and Edgar Escalante. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to improving the lives of Peruvian children by building or renovating classrooms and schools at the outskirts of Lima and in rural areas.

“Education is the cornerstone for progress,” she said. That’s why Learning Goal believes, “[education] should be valued as the best investment to ensure sustainable human development,” according to the group’s mission statement. “Education is a vehicle for social mobility that allows access to better jobs, higher incomes, welfare of households, and is particularly important in countries with high levels of inequality and poverty.”

The organization finds Peruvian communities that need significant upgrades to their schools — or that need new schools altogether — and firmly establishes a relationship with them to build a sense of ownership of whatever project they choose. Ardiles and her small team of 15 (half in Peru and half in the United States) meet with school directors, local government officials, and families to assess what the community needs. They draw up plans for an ideal learning environment, accounting for ventilation, natural light and technology. And then they help build or renovate the school or classrooms.