For The Media

Who We Are
Yspaniola is an education focused nonprofit based in Batey Libertad, a community in the Cibao Valley, Dominican Republic. Our short-term goal is to create access to quality education in Batey Libertad from pre-K through university. Once we establish successful programs in Batey Libertad, our long-term goal is to replicate these programs in other bateys and marginalized communities in the Dominican Republic.

In order to reach our goals, Yspaniola focuses on developing literacy skills and healthy child development in our Learning Center, supporting university education for competitive students from Batey Libertad through our University Scholarships Program, and forming a larger network of support and solidarity through our Experiential Service-Learning Trips.

Vision Statement
Yspaniola’s short-term goal is to create vertical access to quality education in Batey Libertad, from pre-K classes to university scholarships. Our long-term goal is to replicate these programs in other bateys and marginalized communities across the Dominican Republic. We aim to create a network of communities with access to quality education and social and economic capital, so that individuals can advocate and act on their own behalf to petition their government for change. At the same time, we will continue to work, through service-learning trips for students from the United States and volunteer programs for Dominicans, to strengthen the Dominican and international coalition that supports civil and human rights for these communities.

Take a look at our strategic vision to learn more about Yspaniola's plans for the future.

Batey Libertad Learning Center
Yspaniola teaches Spanish language literacy to students ages four to 14 in Batey Libertad. With one Academic Director, three full and part-time teachers, and three teaching assistants from the batey, we serve over 120 children and young adults from the community. Our curriculum helps students in the batey develop skills not acquired in public school, where the quality of instruction is inadequate and students often complete primary school unable to read at the most basic level.

In addition to its academic year-long classes, the Learning Center houses a community library with Spanish-language books, as well as a Food Program, which provides nutritious snacks to students prior to class to improve classroom focus and incentivize attendance.

Youth Summer Camp
Yspaniola facilitates a two to three week summer camp for youth in Batey Libertad. On average, we enroll over 100 children and employ 30 local camp counselors and activity leaders, in addition to 10 international volunteers. Activities include arts instruction, health activities, interactive games and sports, science instruction, and music and theatre programs. Our Youth Summer Camp is a great way for younger members of the community to remain active and engaged over the summer months, as well as for older youth to develop positive leadership skills.

University Scholarship Program
Empowerment means education. In 2010, we launched the University Scholarship Program, an effort to make higher education accessible to students from Dominican bateys, and to empower them to become leaders in their communities. Scholars are chosen by an impartial selection committee of students and professionals in Santiago, the second-largest city in the country. After a rigorous application and interview process, scholars are selected based on academic merit, financial need, leadership potential, and critical reflection on problems facing the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and bateys. All scholars receive generous stipends, significant academic support, and individualized tutoring, allowing them to focus on their studies and succeed in their professional development.

Experiential Service-Learning Trips
Since 2005, Yspaniola has been sponsoring student trips to Batey Libertad and the Dominican Republic. Guided by experienced Yspaniola staff, undergraduate students tour the country, explore the Haitian-Dominican border, meet with human rights activists, live with host families in the batey, and support our work through service projects. Our service-learning trips are centered around education and solidarity: we aim to show students from the United States and Mexico how intricately connected their lives are to people seemingly a world away. We support up to six trips each year.

Community Projects and Outreach Efforts
In Batey Libertad, Yspaniola is engaged in a number of community projects that complement our educational efforts. We have capitalized on our strong ties to the community in order to help residents improve living standards, acquire legal status in the Dominican Republic, and voice their concerns to local government. We are working every day to ensure that marginalized communities across the Dominican Republic have a voice in the important debates that affect their lives.

Select Board Members
Silvio Torres-Saillant is a Professor of English at Syracuse University and one of the foremost intellectuals and scholars of the Dominican diaspora, Caribbean histories and literatures, and race in Latin-American and diasporic Latino communities. Prior to joining the faculty at Syracuse, he founded the prestigious CUNY Dominican Studies Institute at the City College of New York, where he taught from 1997 to 2000.

Cynthia So-Armah is an internal medicine resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital with a focus on primary care. She has worked closely with Yspaniola ever since co-leading the first trip from Yale to Batey Libertad in 2005. She spent a year working with Batey Relief Alliance in Santo Domingo prior to co-founding Yspaniola as a non-profit organization in 2009.

Jonathan DiMaio received a Parker Huang Fellowship to study development and structure Yspaniola in the Dominican Republic after graduating from Yale in 2009. He led the design and implementation of Yspaniola’s University Scholarship Program in 2010, and has directed the growth of the Learning Center, University Scholarship, Service-Learning, and Summer Camp Programs. As President of the Board, Jon currently focuses on Yspaniola’s long-term development and strategy.

Gerald McElroy has worked with Yspaniola in different capacities since his time as an undergraduate at Yale University in 2005. During a Fulbright grant in the Dominican Republic in 2010, Gerald worked to improve Yspaniola’s local program and foster improved relations between Dominicans and Haitians in Batey Libertad. He has a Master’s of Public Administration in Development Practice from the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University and currently lives and works in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Wendy Reynoso has 18 years experience in the non-profit educational field, specifically working with vulnerable children and families. As a consultant, she is currently working as lead educational facilitator for a teacher-training institute in Sierra Leone. Furthermore, she is working as an executive coach for founders of two international NGOs (Dominican Republic, Jamaica) providing organizational strategy. She sits on two New York City school boards, two non-profit boards in New York City, and the international and nominating committees of Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society In Education.