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About the Quetzal University Fund

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​In 2007, Evergreen, Colorado residents Ted and Connie Ning, together with Mimi Schlumberger, founded Starfish One-by-One as a non-profit NGO to further the education of young Mayan women in the Lake Atitlan area of Guatemala.  In its first five years, Starfish operated as a mentoring program for students in the 7th through 12th grades providing financial and other support to assist these young women to continue their education beyond the six years that was normal for girls in this part of Guatemala.  The program was successful beyond expectations with over 200 high school graduates.  

​By 2015, Starfish was ready to move in another direction.  Concerned about not only keeping girls in school, but also the quality of education the students were receiving in the public schools, the Starfish board decided to establish a new secondary school where it could control the educational curriculum and the amount of class time.  In the process, Starfish changed its name to MAIA and named the new school the MAIA-Impact School. 

Ted and Connie were also ready to move on from Starfish and take on a new challenge.  They realized that many of the graduates of the mentoring program they had founded had ambitions and the ability to go far beyond a high school education.  So, together with Barbara Steger, they initiated The Quetzal University Fund offering university scholarships to the top performers in the original Starfish mentoring program.  In so doing, the Q Fund filled a void left when the Starfish mentoring program was abolished.

The Name

The Quetzal University Fund is named for the resplendent quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala.  It is exceptionally colorful, commanding attention just as our students do.  And it is symbolic of the students taking flight as they embark on their university careers and their place in the world beyond.



​To support the most promising Starfish graduates in continuing their education by attending universities throughout Guatemala so they may become agents of change for their communities, their country and the world.

Goals and Objectives

​To achieve our goal of impacting the lives of young Mayan women in positive ways as they pursue a university education, we emphasize the following areas:

  • ​Economic Autonomy

​Our goal is to ensure that each student will increase her employment and earning abilities by completing undergraduate university education in Guatemala in a selected area of study.

  • Healthy and Productive Life

​We support the students in maintaining optimal physical and mental health through their ability to make decisions that benefit their health, their future relationships, and their families.

  • ​Agents of Change

​During the university experience, the students prepare to become agents of change and increase their empowerment by participating in programs and activities that help them develop internal strength, personal skills, and emotional intelligence. 

  • ​Lifelong Learning

​As opportunities arise, students will continue lifelong learning by expanding their world view as they participate in internship and employment experiences, as well as international awareness and opportunities.


​The Quetzal University Fund is managed in the U. S. by a team of dedicated volunteers who are responsible for all fundraising, administration, publicity, and selection of young women for scholarships.  The U.S. team is very ably assisted by staff of MAIA in Guatemala to manage the day-to-day interactions with the students. 


​The Quetzal University Fund is very fortunate to have two great partners: 

  • MAIA (formerly Starfish One-by-One) is our Guatemala partner administering the program on the ground.

  • The Evergreen Rotary Foundation in Colorado serves as fiscal sponsor.  As a 501(c)3 organization recognized by the IRS, the ERF enables the Q Fund to receive tax deductible donations.



​In addition to regular oversight of the program, the Quetzal University Fund Executive Committee is engaged in two major activities throughout the year.  It conducts fundraising to raise funds for scholarships.  It also conducts an annual insight trip to Guatemala each February to showcase the program for those interested in learning more about it. 



​Because the Q Fund program is limited to graduates of the defunct Starfish program, the pool of candidates for the Q Fund was finite.  Students were selected after a careful screening process.  They were all from an area of about 25-mile radius from the MAIA-Impact School in Sololá. The first class of nine Q Fund scholars began their studies in January of 2016.  At its peak in 2020, the Q Fund had 44 students on full scholarship attending university.  Since then, 20 have graduated and two have dropped out to pursue other opportunities. 

As of January 2024, there are 22 young women remaining on scholarships.  The students are majoring in a wide variety of fields including nursing, psychology, social work, education, law, engineering, business administration, and microbiology.  They attend four different universities located in five cities, all in Guatemala.  These include the University of San Carlos (USAC), Rafael Landivar University, University of the Valley of Guatemala (UVG), and Mariano Galvez University (UMG). 


​The current executive committee of the Q Fund is committed to ensuring that all students admitted into the program will continue to receive full financial and supplemental support until they graduate from university.  Since 2020, no new students have been admitted to the program because the supply of graduates from the original Starfish mentoring program has been exhausted.   Since the typical university program in Guatemala is six years, this means that the program will continue at least through 2025.  After that, all remaining funds will be transferred to the Guatemala Indigenous Women's Endowment Fund to carry on the mission and the Q Fund will sunset.




Hear from the students what the Quetzal University Fund has meant to them.

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