How we started
VolunQuest was founded in 2012 by Kristen Ashley Tywan with the intention to provide quality English language education to the children of Isla Mujeres, completely free of cost. Having grown up in Isla, Kristen saw the transformation of the island go from a small fishing village to an international tourist destination with some of the highest ranking beaches in the world.
This transformation has benefited the community enormously with many new opportunities for residents. However, with rapid economic expansion come other less attractive changes. The population of the island increased exponentially. The island’s fortunes attracted English-speaking Mexicans from other parts of the country to take advantage of the higher paying jobs in tourism.
However, there were no public schools on the island that were offering English language classes. Therefore, while others came to the island and benefited, locals in the community could not.
Concerns for the future and the education of Isla
Kristen became increasingly concerned about the effect this was having on the economy and the community of Isla. The lack of English education could have a devastating impact on the future of the island and its original inhabitants.
Her extensive research revealed that there is an English curriculum provided by the Mexican Ministry of Education. However, delivery of this is hampered by the fact there are no qualified teachers to implement it. The curriculum requires all English teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree and be fluent in English. Anyone that holds these credentials would earn a much higher wage working in tourism.
Resolutions and solutions
After in-depth negotiations with the Ministry of Education, VolunQuest became the first private organization to give English lessons in public schools in Mexico.
A resolution was agreed upon to create a mutually beneficial solution to the island’s problems.
From this point forward, VolunQuest would provide, train and supervise both qualified and emerging English teachers who would then provide free English language classes in the primary public schools of Quintana Roo, Mexico.
In return, the Ministry of Education would provide materials, all the necessary facilities and certificate accreditation to the teachers, upon successful completion of the program.
Program Success and Expansion
Because of the immense success of the program in Isla Mujeres, VolunQuest and the local government now provide scholarships to four teachers every semester to gain their TEFL certification through our semester long GAP Year program. VolunQuest has also expanded into all grade levels in the public primary schools, and intends to enter full time into the kindergartens as well in the 2017-2018 school year.
Our Founder: Kristen Ashley Tywan
Kristen studied Psychology at Penn State University. She is a certified CELTA teacher through the University of Cambridge, and has taught both English and Spanish in Chicago, Mexico and Guatemala.
Kristen has lived on and off in Isla Mujeres for 29 years, and studied high school here as well. She works in many capacities with local, state and federal organizations and governments towards the betterment and advancement of the people of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Her aims are diverse, but can mostly be categorized into one of the following categories; Education, Environmental Protection and Cultural Preservation. Additionally, she is a founding sister of the Lambda Zeta Chi sorority and has worked extensively with foundations such as Meals on Wheels and the American Brain Tumor Association.