Observations from Khan Academy coaches and classrooms

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Providing an education to the girls at La Ola Orphanage in Mexico

Guest blog post by Kay Borkowski, volunteer at La Ola Orphanage

I am using Khan Academy at La Ola, a Mexican “orphanage” for girls in Jocotopec, Jalisco, Mexico.  My background is mathematics (primarily at the university level) and I’m an English-speaker with extremely poor Spanish.  My husband and I go to La Ola once a week to tutor.

La Ola Orphanage received the first children from the Mexican child welfare department on March 1, 2010. In September of 2011, La Ola moved into their current facility in Jocotepec, Jalisco, Mexico.  Because many of the children at La Ola were not academically prepared to enter the local schools at the appropriate level for their age, La Ola began a home-schooling program.  One of the initial volunteers of the organization, Betty Parker, also started an academic and fun summer program at her home with the aim of having the children eventually enter the local schools in the age-appropriate class.  Betty recruited local ex-pats and Mexicans to help.  Two of these volunteers, Barbara Harkness and myself became the co-chairs of The La Ola Tutors, which aims to help prepare La Ola students to enter local schools, and act as a resource to help with homework once the students are in the local schools.  Barbara coordinates the academic tutors for those under fourteen years old and Kay coordinates the tutors for the older girls. 

Getting technology and Khan Academy

In 2012, La Ola volunteers Don and Nancy Wiedeman worked long days.  While Nancy, a former high-school math teacher, tutored the older girls Don worked getting the donated computers updated and on an adequate network.  The Wiedemans paid for most of the upgrades and network components, even bringing pieces from the US, and had everything up and running just before they moved back to the US for health reasons.  This was a great service to La Ola and to the girls who had been attempting to use Khan Academy but were frustrated because of the poor network service.  Once the computer network was adequate, the tutors and the home school teacher began using Khan Academy math with the older girls. Soon the younger children were begging to be signed up for Khan Academy, as well! 


Soon the younger children were begging to be signed up for Khan Academy, as well! 


PHOTO: Jesse, age 6, 1st grade

In 2012 La Ola had three girls pass the entrance examination for a nearby CETAC school, a government technical high school which charges fees and is considered one of the best CETAC schools in the state of Jalisco.  In doing so, one of the girls skipped two grades to enter at a level appropriate for her age. These girls used Khan Academy math to prepare for the examination.  Three more girls took the CETAC entrance examination in 2013 and all three have been admitted!  

These girls used Khan Academy math to prepare for the examination.  Three more girls took the CETAC entrance examination in 2013 and all three have been admitted!  

PHOTO: left to right, Chayo, Yesse, and Angeles

This is a stellar achievement for all three but particularly for the one of the three who has never been to a regular school.  When she arrived at La Ola three years ago, at the age of twelve, she neither read nor wrote in any language.  Now she reads and writes in both English and Spanish and even translates from English to Spanish for the new arrivals at La Ola! 



La Ola Casa Hogar ( was founded by Dr. Bob and Becky Plinke to provide a home for children in need.  Bob is a “retired” medical doctor and Becky a “retired” nurse.  During her travels looking for a place to start a home for Mexican street children, Becky met a couple from Ajijic, Mexico, Dr. Jim and Betty Parker, who not only helped in finding the initial location for the home but continue to play an active part in the life of La Ola and its children to this day.  La Ola is not just about restoring the lives of children; it is about providing a place where others can have the opportunity to serve and has a “gap year” volunteer program as well as opportunities for shorter term volunteers.

La Ola Ministries/The Wave is  a non-profit, interdenominational corporation legally constituted under U.S. law 501(c)(3) and operates in Mexico as La Ola de Jalisco, A.C., legally registered with the Mexican government.  La Ola is wholly supported by private donations. Any gifts designated for a specific purpose are used 100 % for that purpose. A financial statement is available upon request so that donors can see how the funds are spent.  The president, officers and board members of this organization do not receive any salary and are strictly voluntary. Some of the mission staff receive outside support, others work totally voluntarily. 

Filed under mexico la ola orphanage math khan academy

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