Education graduate student wins grant for dissertation research in India

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Yolanda Diaz-Houston

A UC Santa Cruz graduate student in education has won a grant from the Rotary Foundation to help fund her dissertation research in India.

Yolanda Diaz-Houston was one of five recipients selected by the regional Rotary district that includes Santa Cruz county. The $12,500 grant will help her pay tuition and traveling expenses next year in support of two three-month research trips to the far north of India.

This fall and next spring, she plans to study the impact of education on the lives of orphan girls at a rural community center. More specifically, Diaz-Houston is looking at the impact that volunteers from other countries have on the educational experiences of the young orphans.

Diaz-Houston was once a volunteer herself at the rural orphanage where 75 percent of the orphans are girls, ages infant to late teens. "Girls are the most likely to be abandoned," Diaz-Houston said.

The surrounding villages lack reliable electricity and water supplies. The average wage is less than $2 a day.  The community center sits on the edge of a jungle and is reached by taxi after traveling four hours by train north from Delhi.

Volunteers come from many countries, she said, but are primarily from the United States and Canada. The community center includes the only medical clinic and school in the area which nearly 500 children from surrounding villages attend, in addition to the orphans. Diaz-Houston said she'll mostly be working with girls high school age and older.