A Piece of Hope

On top of a hill in the center of Nicaragua sits a small town that quickly captured Paige Ferrell’s heart after her first visit four years ago. 

Paige Ferrell, who graduated with a master’s degree with an emphasis in special education in May 2017, met a four-year-old boy in the town of Catarina who was completely non-verbal. His parents were worried about him succeeding in life and were too scared to take him to a doctor. After doing a year of research and gathering materials, Ferrell went back to their home to help. 

“We had class three times a week. At first, he didn’t say anything. Ten weeks later he said 28 words. It was great to make such an impact in his life and to help his family develop strategies to help him at home.” 

Ferrell learned he was not the only one without the resources to succeed. She promised to return to Catarina every summer to help. 

“I was just running into people that needed help and there was no way to help them. The school would love to have something for children who need extra services, but they have no way of getting that. Doctors there don’t have access to the latest information about autism or developmental disabilities. There’s not a whole lot of resources for anyone to learn.” 

Ferrell wants to make sure the children of Nicaragua have the opportunity to get a quality education. 

“Right now, those kids don’t go to school. They sit at home and, depending on their functioning level, they learn a few things. They learn some street skills and they become street kids. There really is no place for you if you can’t make it in the general education classrooms. I want to be able to bring those children in.” 

She also took those strategies to the general education teachers at a private Christian school in Catarina. She helped the teachers make small changes for students with learning disabilities. 

“They don’t have a way to learn anything different. They have one course that you take to be a teacher and then you’re a teacher and that’s it,” Ferrell explained. “They want to teach students better and they want to learn different things, they just don’t have a way to do that.” 

Ferrell plans to move to Catarina and start a special education program within the school. By providing training for the teachers and resources to families, she hopes to build a model to help expand the program. 

“I do not want this to be based off of how long I am able to be in Nicaragua. I want it to be a lasting support that will train more professionals and reach more students and their families.” 

Dr. Glenda Byrns, clinical associate professor of special education, said Ferrell is like many other graduates from the program who embrace the Aggie Core Values. 

“Paige, like many of our graduates, truly embodies the Aggie core value of Selfless Service. This program will not only educate children with autism but will provide support for their families." 

You can learn more about Ferrell’s plans by visiting tx.ag/pieceofhope.