This summer, Yulerna will become Makarios' first high school graduate. This is not only an exciting milestone for Makarios but an incredible accomplishment for Yulerna. Those who know her would describe her as determined, loving, smart, free-spirited and responsible. She shares that finishing school has taken hard work and a lot of encouragement from family, teachers and mentors in her life. In this interview, Yulerna talks about those who have impacted her life, what she has learned throughout her years at Makarios and her hopes for her future. Take a moment to read her story and celebrate all that God is doing.
Can you share a little bit about your family and the community where you grew up?
I was born and raised in Montellano and live with my family in the community of Tamarindo. I live with my parents and I have two brothers and two sisters. My mother has had a big influence on my life. She has always guided me, given me lots of advice and corrected me when I needed it. She always asked me what I want in life...if I want to have the same lifestyle as those around me. My mom had a really difficult childhood and was not able to finish school. She wants better for me and that I have more opportunity than she had. She has been one of my biggest motivations to keep going in school.
“Her graduation is a great success. She has taken the right path of finishing school. She has learned from our life experiences. She is able to do something with what God has given her.” - Yulerna’s Parents
How long have you been a part of Makarios and which programs?
I became a part of Makarios when I was around 5 years old. I live really close to the school and in the mornings they used to play worship music to start off each day. I would hear the music and stand at the entrance listening and wanted to be a part of it. Eventually, my grandma talked to one of the staff and soon thereafter I became a student of Makarios. Over the years, I have taken classes through Makarios, participated in academic enrichment programs, the discipleship program, summer programs and served as a summer intern for two years.
"We met Yulerna on our first trip to the DR in 2013. We loved getting to see her in her classroom and immediately noticed how bright she was. Getting to build a relationship with her over the years has brought the mission of Makarios closer to home. Our hope for her is that she continues her education. We could see her doing anything. She has so much potential. I would love for her to go to university and follow her dreams." - David and Callie Holland, Sponsors of Yulerna
Who has been influential in helping you become the person you are today?
Many of my teachers and Makarios staff have impacted me over the years. And of course my mom. Some of the ones who impacted me the most were Profe Kendall, Profe Johan, Profe Sarah (Cita), Adrienne, Profe Libny, Profe Junior and Profe Nicole. Despite my attitude, they gave me good advice, corrected me lovingly and gave me lots of chances to grow. Many have had patience with me and took the time to listen to me and motivate me. When I was younger my teachers taught me how to read and important values such as being courteous. They asked me questions that made me think about life. They read scripture with me, talked about God and spent time with me. They all impacted me in different ways.
What have you learned about God and faith through your time in Makarios?
God is sovereign. He is there even when we don’t see him. God is strength. Not all families talk about God but everyone in Makarios learns about Him. When you trust in God and his plans, it will go better for you. Not everyone believes in what they see. I see God in my life because He answers prayers. I want God to be the guide in my life. I want to think about God first rather than worry about what is going to happen in a situation.
“For her future, I hope that she will get to study what she wants to and one day graduate from college. My biggest hope for her, though, is spiritual. I hope that she will come to know Jesus Christ as her Savior. I pray for her that God would open her eyes to the beauty of being in relationship with Him and how much peace, hope and joy comes in life in general from knowing God.” - Adrienne, mentor/previous Makarios missionary
What would you say to younger students in Makarios?
Take advantage of this opportunity you have through Makarios. Not everyone has people in their lives to help them. There are many kids who can’t go to school because their parents can’t afford uniforms or are not able to provide the support they need. Makarios helps facilitate these things for us, so do not waste it. Don’t give up. There will always be people in your life who are negative influences. Fight for your dreams.
What do you want to study and what type of job would you like to have?
I would like to study psychology and tourism and work in a hotel when I am older. I want to help my family; my parents, my grandma and other people who are in need.
“She has direction and hope for her future, which come from the guidance of her family, teachers, and God. She is loved by all and makes friends easily, which is why I know she will be successful at whatever she does.” - Kendall, Yulerna’s 1st grade teacher/ previous Makarios missionary
Beyond work, what dreams do you have?
A dream of mine would be to travel the world and be a motivational speaker. I also have a dream of building an orphanage.
“Yulerna has always talked about her desire to continue studying to help her family, she has told me about her dream of having an orphanage. But more than succeeding in her studies, more than her dreams fulfilled, which are things that I also want her to achieve, my desire is that she really get to know God and allow Him to fulfill in her all the plans that He has for her. I am sure that they will be greater than all the things that she can dream of and achieve. And I wish to receive the news at some point in her life that she managed to put up that orphanage that she dreams of so much.” - Libny, Mentor/Discipleship Leader
What did you learn in Makarios that you want to take with you?
I learned how to serve others. We can help other people no matter how much we have. Don’t give up even when things are hard.
“Yulerna is a young woman of strong character who has always been faithful to her responsibilities. She strives to be better every day, she wants to be involved in everything that gives her the opportunity to grow.” - Nicole, Mentor/Discipleship Program Coordinator
What have you learned about yourself?
I am strong and brave, like my mom. I have spent the last 15 years studying in school and it has not been easy to finish. I continued even when it was difficult. I would wake up and not have what I needed for the day but I kept going. I didn’t give up and that’s what makes me brave.
“While she lives with and depends on us right now, we know she has what she needs to be independent. You have to think about and prepare for the future. We are very happy because she is going to graduate. We want to continue to encourage her to reach her goals in her career.” - Yulerna’s Parents
This fall, Yulerna will have the opportunity to take a step closer to her dreams. Through Makarios Sponsorship, she will be able to start her journey of going to college. Makarios is piloting a leadership program that will equip our graduates to follow career paths that help realize their potential and empower them to be leaders in their communities. The program will evolve and grow as more students graduate in the subsequent years. Yulerna will have a mentor as she transitions into this exciting new stage. There is also a service component where she will spend time giving back to the community by serving in the school and other Makarios programs. The Makarios family is excited to celebrate this achievement, and looking forward to seeing how God works in Yulena’s life to impact her community and beyond.
You can make this dream a reality for other students by becoming a
At Makarios, we believe that God's great commission to His people is to live obedient to His Word and to go into all the world and preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to all people, baptizing and making disciples of all those who believe.
“A disciple is a follower of a particular word or doctrine. To be a disciple of Christ, then, is to be one who follows Jesus and lives in obedience to his commands. The purpose of discipleship is to shape believers into committed followers of Christ who live out the kind of devotion that Jesus described through his teachings” - Doug Franklin.
We believe this shaping and growing happens when followers of Jesus engage in relationships with each other, learning from each other, in order to know Christ more. This process is called discipleship. We disciple others because it’s a command from God and because it’s our joy.
In obedience to this command, Makarios staff lead a discipleship class for our older students. Nicole, Libny and Belizeur, along with other staff, lead this group and meet with students on a weekly basis in their discipleship groups. In these groups, students learn about the gospel and who God is. The leaders guide them and encourage them to be faithful and hard-working in the classroom and as followers of Christ. Our students are dynamic and fun, and Beli, Libny and Nicole are filled with joy as they watch this group of students grow in their understanding of Christ and the importance of having a personal relationship with him.
At the end of each semester, the discipleship program hosts a fun event to celebrate our students. Our last event was a pool party where our students got to spend time swimming, having fun, and talking with their friends and teachers about all they had learned that semester.
Will you join us in praying for the students in our discipleship program? Pray that each one of them would become dedicated followers of Jesus and feel empowered to influence their communities. Also pray that our staff would lead them with integrity, and that our students would become empowered through Him, and would begin to influence and lead others around them.
A word from our sponsorship director:
A few weeks ago, I sat down with one of our students and read a letter to him from his sponsor. I was very aware that this particular student struggles in his classes and often receives more negative attention than positive. In the letter, his sponsors wrote “we are a part of your team and we are praying for you.” He looked at me and asked, “What do they mean, ‘a part of my team?' What team?” I then shared with him about how we all have a team, people who are cheering us on, encouraging us, praying for us, guiding us, people who want the best for us. As I listed people who are a part of his team, he looked pensive. His demeanor changed and he cracked a smile. I helped him write his response to his sponsors and he went back to his class. It was a brief moment and short letter but it was so special to witness his reaction when he heard that people believe in him. We all need to hear that.
Sponsors act as an extended family. Not only do sponsors support a student’s education but also have the opportunity to build a relationship with them, encourage them and speak truth into their life.
Times like these remind us of the importance of connecting with one another. Despite quarantines and social distancing around the world, people are finding creative ways to reach out and check on loved ones, neighbors and those in their communities who are hit hardest by CO-VID19. This is a perfect time to send a message to the student(s) you sponsor to offer words of encouragement during this time of uncertainty.
Send a message through the Sponsor Portal!
Did you know that our sponsors have a Sponsor Portal where you can write messages to the student(s) you sponsor? You can also send pictures of you and your family. Our team translates the messages and makes sure our students receive your letter. We then upload their response (or drawing) with the translation in the portal and send it with the next US-bound staff. Here are the instructions!
Thank you for the ways you support our students and Makarios. You are making an impact on their lives!
God used her education to change her life...