Sacbajá Family: “The secret is to dream big”

Family next to a Christmas tree

Reading time

5 min


Meso Foundation

Publish Date

June 2, 2023

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Leonel Sacbajá and Mercedes Guantá shared a common vision for their children: to provide them with the wings to soar toward a brighter future. For them, education was the clear path to fulfilling this great dream.  Couple holding hands The Sacbajá family is made up of Dr. Leonel Sacbajá, the father, and Mrs. Mercedes Guantá, the mother of the five children who studied at Colegio Mesoamericano: Jebel Mercedes María, Ajbe Leonel Antonio, Noyari Alejandra María, and the twins Kaslem María José and Nimcaj Adriana María. Family of eight “In 1999 and 2000, we were looking for a school that would provide our children with comprehensive education. We have been fortunate to have been born in Tecpán, Chimaltenango, but we have realized that many people have never left the municipality. We wanted to open up the whole world to our children. So we found that Colegio Mesoamericano had a futuristic vision and also opened the door to our own ideas,” recalls Mr. Sacbajá. By entrusting their children’s education to Meso, the Sacbajá family became a “pioneer family” in the words of Julio Salazar, founder of Colegio Mesoamericano. Four adults laughing The Sacbajá children put all their effort into ensuring that their parents’ efforts were not in vain. For them, maintaining the education of five children was “a miracle every day.” “If you ask us, we didn’t have an unlimited bank account. However, the secret has been to dream big. We come from very poor families, and little by little, we have changed history with hard work and education,” emphasizes Mr. Leonel. Family eating pizza Getting to school was a challenge in itself for the Sacbajá siblings. Every day, they had to travel for more than 40 minutes to reach Colegio Mesoamericano, a distance of approximately 33 km. Therefore, every morning, Mrs. Mercedes would wake them up very early and prepare them for a long day, including packing their lunches. However, the subsequent successes that ensued compensated for the early mornings with tired eyes and constant yawns. As they neared their high school years, the Sacbajá children became aware of an opportunity presented to them by Mesoamericano School: the chance to study in the United States. Alejandra was the first one to leave. At first, she had a hard time deciding to take the risk, but when presented with all the possible opportunities that could arise from attending Snow College, she became encouraged. “I am a bit shy, so it was a bit difficult for me to be here at first. You don’t know anything, not even what’s going on, but there are many people willing to help you, and eventually, you don’t feel so alone. I have met people from other countries who are going through the same thing, and I have been able to connect with them. It has been a good experience,” expresses the student. Snow College was a dream come true for the Sacbajá family. Alejandra, the eldest sibling, is now setting her sights on even greater achievements as she pursues a specialization in biomedicine at a university in Missouri. Alongside her, Yoselyn Hernandez, another Mesoamericano alumna, has also played a pioneering role in facilitating student transfers out of Utah, opening doors to opportunities for future students. Two girls graduating  Following in Alejandra’s footsteps, her twin sisters, Maria and Adriana, are currently enrolled at Snow College, working towards their Associate Degrees. Their ultimate goal is to pursue studies in business and medicine. Three girls next to a Christmas tree “The success of our children is also our success, and we are very proud of how far they have come. We invite parents to think big. Don’t be intimidated by economic issues because if you project it, you can achieve it. Dreams can come true, and only by taking the plunge can they be achieved,” conclude the Sacbajá family parents. Family making a toast

The beginnings of Meso Foundation

Rogelia Principal

Reading time

8 min


Meso Foundation

Publish Date

March 22, 2023

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The seeds of Meso Foundation began with Rogelia Moran, mother of Julio Salazar, founder of Meso Foundation and Colegio Mesoamericano.

Let’s meet Rogelia, Julio’s inspiration, and motivation.

Growing up with loving parents, Rogelia believed that communication was the key to her family’s success, it helped her develop values that would later shape her life full of education, compassion, and a desire to improve the lives of others. “Even though we lived in rural areas, far from schools, there were always books in our home. That was a great light that my father gave us to illuminate our lives. He always focused on teaching us many things from a young age. When I entered first grade, I already knew how to read and write because my father had taught me. To this day, what surrounds my bed are more than 100 books, and I am always reading”, said Rogelia.
Woman with her family, parents and kids

In a white blouse, Doña Rogelia Morán appears with her daughter María, her father don Mario, her mother María Consuelo Burgos and other members of her family.

Rogelia’s love of reading transformed into a desire to continue learning and put new skills into practice. Eventually, she realized she wanted to pass on this knowledge to help others less fortunate. “At a very young age, I started working as a rural teacher. I had the opportunity to study Community Advancement and learned how to raise animals and grow plants. I also took a course in Public Health. I became the director of a social welfare program and we taught mothers about basic tasks that could be applied in their homes. At San Carlos University of Guatemala, I took a course in Hospital Administration. Thanks to this, I learned how to equip and remodel hospitals, and thus help others, especially children in the Elisa Martinez Hospital in Puerto Barrios, Izabal”, recalls Rogelia, who for seven years was the Administrator of that hospital.
Two women sitting together

On the left, Mrs. Rogelia Morán with a work friend.

Throughout her career, Rogelia educated groups of farmers so that they could learn to better manage their land, animals, and crops. She also educated mothers about the importance of balanced nutrition during breastfeeding and dispelled harmful myths to improve the food security of mothers and their children. Furthermore, Rogelia in the course of her life took many children under her wing, and even informally adopted some of them. “I’ve been a household consultant. I have visited people in difficult and joyful situations and have always found the opportunity to learn something from them. To this day, the desire to teach and organize is still in me. It makes me sad to see resources wasted everywhere when people don’t have a vision”, explains Rogelia.
Woman teaching agriculture to girls

Doña Rogelia teaches agriculture to girls in a school.

All these examples of teaching and helping others did not fall on deaf ears. Her son, Julio was always behind her, listening and learning from her example. Rogelia recognized that at the early age of 6 years, little Julio had caught on to the idea of helping others. More than once, Rogelia caught him “stealing” some eggs to share with a friend, who always mentioned not having been able to have breakfast. “Those were the actions of a son, seeing his mother who tirelessly helped others. That desire persists in me to this day, I am not tired of helping others, just as my mother taught me. Children learn more by example than by any words we say to them. My mother has taught with her example, about the importance of helping others”, concludes Julio, moved to tears at having his mother by his side.
Woman and her children

Doña Rogelia is accompanied by her children: 1. María, 2. Mario, 3. Julio, 4. Boris y 5. Juana.

“By watching my mother, I figured it was worthwhile to do things for others. At home, there were always people my mother helped. Seeing her always in action formed a restlessness in me over the years. First, to do good, and second to cultivate in me and in the new generations the same seed that she sowed in me. I wanted to do something important and meaningful for the people”, recalls Julio, moved by the memories. Julio was given the opportunity to go to college in the States, graduated as an Industrial Engineer, and proceeded to get a job at Compaq Computer Corporation.  However, he never lost the passion to do something meaningful for his country. Two times he quit his job and tried to do a project in Guatemala, and two times he failed and had to go back to the States and regroup. It wasn’t until the third time that he and his former friends got the seed money to start a project. Bye then he and his friends had thought through many potential projects to help Guatemala. They discussed projects based on health care, the environment, social businesses, and many more until they landed on education.
Man at graduation

Julio Salazar graduated from Brigham Young University, BYU in 1982.

In 1997 Julio and his former friends gave life to the Rose Foundation, now known as Meso Foundation. “First I defined a goal: education was what we wanted to achieve; thus the mission and vision of the Foundation were born. We focused on the skills and abilities that future generations need to succeed in life and we started from there”, explains our founder. Meso Foundation’s mission today is “Empowering the native people of Guatemala with opportunities” and its vision of a “ happier, healthier, more prosperous Guatemala.” Since the beginning, Meso Foundation has sought to pave paths for the new generations and to provide tools for them to take the journey to success. Rogelia’s advocacy was key in this creation. Her dedication to others and her protective instinct as a mother impacted the lives of many people even outside her own family. Rogelia continues to witness the legacy that she passed on to Julio throughout the growth and success of Colegio Mesoamericano.
Rogelia continues to witness the legacy that she passed on to Julio throughout the growth and success of Colegio Mesoamericano.

During visits to his mother, Julio would chat and enjoy relaxing in the hammocks that Doña Rogelia has in her house.

We hope that this legacy of kindness and knowledge continues through many years to come so that Julio’s altruistic spirit and revolutionary educational ideas continue to live on.

2022: A Year of Overcoming Challenges

Docente hablándole a un público

Reading time

7 min


Meso Foundation

Publish Date

December 21, 2022

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The 2022 school year comes to a close and will go down in the history of Meso as a year of transcendental changes. After almost two years of isolation and full virtuality, the students of Colegio Mesoamericano wanted to attend school more than ever. Meso had to wait until the Guatemalan government dictated the security measures that would set the tone for the gradual return to school.

At Meso, the classrooms remained empty at the beginning of the year. Empty desks and great silence were all there was. Although quietness reigned in Meso’s facilities, the desire to learn never stopped. Students and teachers shared time and content from home to continue learning.

Four children showing their art work

The assistant principal of Colegio Mesoamericano, Miss Ingrid, highlights that “If there is something we must thank and applaud the teachers for, it is the level of motivation they maintained during these difficult times. They took care of the student’s education and mental health at the same time. They achieved this with the support of Indigo, our emotional intelligence program. Thanks to Indigo, we are aware of our emotions and have learned to validate our feelings. That’s what our teachers did and I admire them for doing that.”

The teachers were able to stay motivated due to the communication and support between them and the school authorities. Teamwork was the key to overcoming that hard season of extended work days. They first had to educate themselves in new technologies and then teach them to the students so that they could learn.

 Teacher working out

Ready to Return

Following government instructions, classes at the school began in June, in a hybrid system. There were long pauses due to quarantines, as the virus was still lurking. But everyone proved to be incredibly flexible in adapting to these changes.

Students learning outdoors

It was not until August that we were able to return completely to face-to-face classes. Little by little, those empty spaces were filled with the joy of the kids who were so happy to see each other again. One thing became evident almost immediately: the social space provided by the school was much needed. They need it to develop their social skills and foster friendships.

It was clear that the priority was to get back to studying, but the teachers had to make room for communication between students, who longed to catch up with their friends. “How have you been?”, ”How are your parents?”, ”You look different!”, and “How much you’ve grown!” These were just some of the phrases that were heard frequently in this reunion.

Parallel to these spontaneous moments of catchup amongst students, Meso also organized educational and recreational activities to promote coexistence among students. These included the Spelling Bee, the Meso’s Got Talent contest, and the Summer Day summer activity. All activities were carried out taking into account the health recommendations and precautions issued by the Guatemalan Government.

Something Unexpected

When everything seemed to be getting better and there was already a sense of stability, the unimaginable happened. Our founder, the mastermind behind the Meso Foundation and the most important pillar of Colegio Mesoamericano, Engineer Julio René Salazar Morán, became seriously ill and passed away on Tuesday, October 11, 2022.

It has been a difficult reality to accept. However, his knowledge, kindness, and passion for helping others are still present. Miss Ingrid assures that “The legacy continues, our commitment to his vision for the school remains strong and we will work to ensure that it is not lost”. It is a fact that both teachers, as well as collaborators of the Meso Foundation and friends, will keep Don Julio’s mission alive: to fight for a happier, healthier, and more prosperous Guatemala.

Man showing children soil

The Renuevo (Renew) Concert was dedicated to Mr. Julio Salazar. An emotional video with pictures and memories of his family was the opening of the event. After that, the show began with several songs chosen by students and music teachers. There was a marimba, and ukulele, as well as other instruments and musical styles.

Children playing violin


In a year as challenging as 2022, finally celebrating the goal of graduation was a very emotional moment, much more so than usual. Although no gowns were worn this year, celebrating it face-to-face elicited a lot of emotions, both in the kids and their parents.

“The parents were very excited because after going through so many difficulties during the pandemic, it felt like it was a very difficult goal to achieve. However, we were able to celebrate the four graduations: pre-school, elementary, middle school, and high school. This year we all started a new stage where we demonstrated that we can achieve our goals, regardless of the circumstances”.  Ingrid de Rojas.

During the ceremony, five students were highlighted as they began studying at Meso from pre-K through high school. 13 wonderful years of growth at Meso.

Children holding diplomas

Looking Ahead to 2023

In addition to catching up on the knowledge backlog, the challenge will be to fully achieve the personalization of education. Miss Ingrid highlights that “This is not something new but it is something we need to reinforce. The pandemic taught us that we must do things differently and one way is to know each of our students and teach them according to their levels. There can be no “one size fits all” in education. There are sizes XS, S, M, L, XL, and XXL and we cannot force our kids. As teachers, we must re-educate ourselves and address this need”.

The Meso English Academy provided vital support so that the students did not fall behind in their English learning. The students who wish to go to Snow College must take the TOEFL and although this year no one was sent due to the pandemic, the children are motivated to continue learning to achieve this goal in 2023.