The auditorium of the high school in the heart of Quito, Ecuador, was sparse. Beyond a regal painting of Simon Bolivar displayed prominently on stage and a few posters, the room was unadorned, belying the incredible scene we were about to witness. We were there on a visit to learn more about UNICEF-supported programs in Ecuador. The eight of us sat in a row at the front of the room, facing dozens of students—mostly 18 years and older—who had previously dropped out of school and were now returning to finish their education. They were participating in a UNICEF-supported Fast Track Initiative, where they were able to complete three years of school in only one rigorous year, helping them catch up to their peers.
Jeremy Cole, UNICEF USA