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A Risk Worth Taking

By April Hall

nicaragua map

taylorDOUGLAS TAYLOR BW’11 is taking a risk. He’s leaving graduate school to pursue a dream.

His dream doesn’t involve heading out West looking for stardom or driving to Nashville looking for a record deal. Taylor is moving to Nicaragua with two friends to build schools.

Amped for Education, of which Taylor is a vice president, has been working in Nicaragua for three years. While Taylor has never drawn a salary, he and his partners believe the organization is at a tipping point.

The nonprofit was founded in September 2009 and is “dedicated to the creation of educational opportunities in the developing world through the funding and construction of schools, learning centers, and educational infrastructure,” according to its website.

“We’re right at the cusp of real growth,” Taylor said just weeks before his planned move. “All of my vacation time each year is spent in Nicaragua in one fell swoop. That’s fine, but it’s a hobby organization. With my marketing and business experience, I think we’re ready to take it over the top.”

quoteSo he has quit his job, transferred his MBA program at St. Joseph’s University to an online course, sold his car and just about everything else, and rented an apartment in Nicaragua. Taylor admitted his parents aren’t thrilled by the move, but he is steadfast.

His two partners in Amped are also making this leap, which Taylor said will be a world of difference compared to the conference calls they usually have to plan for the organization. “The stars have aligned.”

So far, Amped has built a technical secondary school in Nueva Esperanza (which means “new hope” in Spanish), Nicaragua. It took two years for the group, in partnership with another education nonprofit, to construct the building that opened to students in February 2012. Now they work to support and maintain the schools in the small town.

To fund the 501-c3, Amped for Education has had angel donations, awards from The Rotary Club, and other fundraising. A bulk of the income to the group is through “voluntourism,” Taylor said. People, usually high school and college students, pay a flat rate to go to, in this case, Nicaragua and receive room and board. They volunteer at the schools and the group also goes on trips to baseball games or ziplining adventures to volcanoes. The base price for a nine-day trip is $1,299, and what isn’t used for the travelers is put back into the brick and mortar, specialized contractors, laptops for students, and the like.

Taylor said he doesn’t foresee a time in Nicaragua when their work will be “finished,” but the group is looking into expanding their operation to other places where they are needed. “That’s another thing we’re going to figure out for 2015 and beyond,” he said. “We have contacts in Haiti who want a secondary school from Amped. They are really struggling there. I think that is where we want to go next.” For more information on Amped, click here.

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