La Fontaine School is an initiative that focuses on the transformation of social realities through education. Its educational model combines the gratuity of public education with the quality of private education to reduce knowledge gaps.
They participated in the RECON contest and were recognized as the best social entrepreneurship initiative in Colombia, in the Education category. Its director and co- founder, Lillibeydy Manrique is our social entrepreneur of the week and told us about her project.
RECON: Who is Lilibeydy?
Lilibeydy Manrique: I am a 30-year-old woman; I grew up in Siloé in Cali. I am the youngest of 6 siblings. I went to public school and to the public university, which made me sensitive to the power that education has to reduce inequality gaps. I have a degree in foreign languages from Universidad del Valle and I am currently in the third semester of a master’s degree in Management for social innovation at Icesi University.
I am a social entrepreneur and young leader of the Americas initiative 2016 by the government of President Barack Obama
REC: How did your initiative come about, Colegio La Fontaine?
LM: I worked for 7 years in private schools in Cali knowing all the benefits of elite bilingual private education. It was there that my brother Adarley and I asked ourselves the question: Why can’t the children of the community where we came from have the same place? And that is how the idea of starting a bilingual school of a social nature arose. Today the school works in the same house where I grew up and lived in for 24 years. At that time, it was a community house that benefited women from the same commune. All these were elements that helped me create a life project focused on community service and progress as more powerful than individual progress.
REC: What does La Fontaine College offer and do?
LM: We narrow the knowledge and opportunities gap with an education proposal with emphasis on bilingualism and 21st century skills development (STEAM- Science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics), with personalized classes, pedagogical outings, use of technology and all the characteristics of a quality school, but at a low cost and aimed at a population of strata 1 and 2 on the hillside of Cali.
REC: How many students are enrolled in Colegio La Fontaine?
LM: In Year 2018, which is our fourth year with the school, we have 133 children in our own headquarters.
REC: Who inspired you to carry out this initiative and to decide to be a social entrepreneur?
LM: My family is my great inspiration. My grandmother is my great example to follow, she raised her children selling arepas in the gallery of Siloé and raising chickens and pigs, she gave an education to her younger daughters because my grandfather did not want to do it. So that’s where all that strength comes from. I think, I grew up with it. My brother is my entrepreneurial partner and I admire him a lot, since I was a kid I wanted to learn English, but there were no resources and I looked for a way to do it with an old dictionary that I bought. And my husband, who is my partner, is also my great engine. My mom also inspires me, because she has supported me and encouraged me to study.
REC: What do you dream that happens with Colegio la Fontaine?
LM: My dream is to have a network of schools in the hillside of Cali. But first finish building the headquarters that we are premiering and adapt it with dreamed spaces, such as: the library, system room, maker space and room games. We want to be able to reach a coverage of 300 students in this location, but we need to build the second and third floors.
REC: What did it mean to win in the RECON contest and how did it help you?
LM: RECON has been a great opportunity to visualize ourselves through different means of communication and social networks, because social entrepreneurs work silently and alone. RECON has helped us attract people who identify with our mission and want to support.
The seed capital we earned will be invested to implement our maker space, which will be the place to develop our STEAM methodology and potentiate innovation and creativity skills.
REC: What advice would you give to other social entrepreneurs?
LM: Do not give up, the road is long, arduous and requires work and sacrifice. Everything has its time and the moment comes when things start to flourish.
I also advise you not to work alone; social entrepreneurship is looking for allies in the community and in other organizations to work hand in hand.
Now the school is a place of university practices and a model of educational innovation in the hillside of Cali. If we manage to be sustainable our projects will never end.