Mentes Brillantes: A Visionary Education in Ecuador

Mentes Brillantes: A Visionary Education in Ecuador

Posted on

Mentes Brillantes

The foundation of Mentes Brillantes is a story rooted in a mother’s desire to create a unique and supportive educational environment for her child. Sonnia de Carrion, who has dedicated nearly 30 years to teaching, envisioned a different kind of education while pregnant with her daughter. Concerned that unschooling might be a lonely option for her only child, Sonnia sought to create a nurturing, safe, and engaging learning environment.

Mentes Brillantes started as informal gatherings in 2019, where Sonnia’s daughter and children of close friends, who shared similar educational philosophies, participated in English and cooking classes and enjoyed ample free play. The core of this initiative was the joy and growth witnessed among these children, all of whom shared the same religious beliefs as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

From Informal Gatherings to a Flourishing School

What began as casual classes quickly evolved into a more structured program. Overcoming numerous challenges, Sonnia and her husband discovered West River Academy, an institution perfectly aligned with their vision of a values-based, safe school. Starting with 20 students, Mentes Brillantes adapted swiftly to the pandemic, expanding its reach to 100 online students. The dedication of Sonnia and her husband, who initially ran the school alone, was instrumental in this growth.

As the school grew, more teachers were hired, and students were divided into grades. By 2022, Mentes Brillantes began seeking a physical location for in-person classes. Currently, they serve 315 students through a mix of presential, online, and hybrid modalities.

Pre-K to 6th grade students can attend school on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, while Thursday classes are available online. Fridays are free for these students. For 7th to 12th-grade students, in-person classes are held on Thursdays and Fridays, with the option to attend online. They have online courses on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and Mondays are free. All in-person classes are available live and online.

A Holistic Approach to Education

The school emphasizes holistic education, incorporating extracurricular activities such as Spelling Bees, Theater plays, choreographies, Art Contests, Music talent shows, and Field trips. These events reinforce the students’ talents and knowledge, providing a well-rounded educational experience.

Assessment at Mentes Brillantes includes four annual tests, which can be taken online or in person. Their graduation program is particularly noteworthy. In the 12th grade, students select a topic they are passionate about and write a research paper. This process includes deadlines, rules, and meetings in English to discuss the topics, guided by project tutors. If a student is not proficient in English, they are allowed to complete the project in Spanish.

At the end of the year, students present their research orally to judges, summarizing their year-long investigation and discussing their findings and conclusions. This exercise helps develop essential soft skills such as public speaking and research capabilities.

Building a Supportive Community

The journey of Mentes Brillantes has been marked by growth and success, primarily attributed to the supportive community of educators, students, and parents and the significant support from West River Academy. The school’s commitment to each student and their families is evident in every aspect of its approach.

Sonnia de Carrion’s vision has flourished into a vibrant community where students learn, play, and grow together. With Jehovah’s blessing, Mentes Brillantes has seen two groups of students graduate in 2023 and 2024, a testament to the school’s dedication and effectiveness.

Looking forward, Mentes Brillantes aims to continue fostering the abilities and spiritual qualities necessary for their students to succeed in life. The collaboration with West River Academy and the strong sense of community promises a bright future for this innovative educational initiative.