Hi, everyone!I am so excited to introduce my next guest on the Podcast today: Luis Gustavo Heredia Vasquez. We met over a leadership bootcamp hosted by the Latin American Leadership Academy (LALA) where I interned this summer (interested in hearing more about that? Check it out!). Right from the start, Gustavo had a strong sense of humor and congeniality. I got to know him better as we coincidentally found ourselves at another LALA conference, where Gustavo was speaking about his organization, Edulimitless. From chatting and speaking with him over WhatsApp, I knew that Gustavo had an incredible way of making education not only enjoyable but also accessible and empowering. I had to invite him on the Podcast after hearing him speak.
At just 18 years old, Gustavo, a proud Peruvian, has already founded his own organization, Edulimitless, that promotes holistic education around Latin America. Edulimitless teaches English classes, promotes the preservation of Indigenous languages and encourages its students to be global servants. Gustavo has been part of Global Citizen of the Year and also the Latin American Leadership Academy (LALA). Outside of his work, Gustavo is passionate about education, politics, and leadership. He loves to read poems and travel throughout his imaginary worlds.
Victoria Foley: Hello Gustavo, how are you?
Gustavo Heredia: Hello Victoria, nice to be here with you today.
Victoria Foley: Likewise, how are you doing?
Gustavo Heredia: All good for now. And you, Victoria?
Victoria Foley: Very good, very good, thank you. We’ll start with a small introduction about you.
Gustavo Heredia: Well, great. I am Gustavo, I am 18 years old and I live in Peru, a Latin American country known for its Plato Bandera ceviche. Peru. So when you come here you have to try the ceviche. That. Well, I’m basically my second gap year and one of my goals for this year is to enter a university in the United States, so I really hope to enter. And well, basically I’m in that part right now, involved in social projects and learning a little more about myself, learning about life in general. And here we are.
Victoria Foley: Wow, good, good. You should come to Amherst College in Massachusetts. Tell us about how you started Edulimitless and what it’s about.
Gustavo Heredia: Edulimitless started last year around October and well, but obviously the central part is born long before. It was not when I finished high school in 2019, then 2020 arrived and at the beginning you know what happened. All came that was part of COVID. I began to concentrate a little more on the virtual part. One of the problems that I had had in school was to learn English. I didn’t know any English so when I came out I wanted to help one way or anotherwith this language to adolescent people especially, who did not have command of this language. So, taking advantage of access to technology and that more people were engaging with technology back then, for the same reason of COVID, I decided not to start to Edulimitless. First, I just wanted to teach English, then how time went by and I had also remembered that part of that well, not everyone likes it in English, they like math or languages, but they like the arts or other disciplines. So I decided to expose them to not only work on the academic part, but also on the artistic part. This year, we have been working with leadership as well, especially self-knowledge skills. That last one seems to me the most difficult part because it is difficult to know or accept many times the fears we have, our mistakes or things in life. That’s the hardest part, when people ask you who you are.
Gustavo Heredia: I was really in good spirits with all this because it was a new experience, so I literally jumped into the pool without knowing how to swim. So it was like good, I had to learn along the way because I alone couldn’t cover more or less all the people who signed up. And well, a project cannot be run by just one person. If you want to make a difference, you always have to think collectively. So I had to call volunteers and it was nice because well, I was able to meet people not only from my country, Peru, but also from other countries like Bolivia, Mexico ,Paraguay and like this. And above all to get to know their realities. I think that is one of the most beautiful experiences that I was able to bring the part of interculturality and above all connect stories. Even though we are in different places, we can connect with perhaps the social problems that exist. There are always highs and lows, because there are times when you feel like I’m really helping, I’m really doing what is correct and these times of existential crisis arrive. But hey, at the end of the day, I think that when a teenager to a child gives you a smile, when you are giving a class of changes the landscape completely, it is not the same. It is always a continuous [thing] to learn new methodologies and especially in this level of education it is a little more difficult because you have to make the student have fun and not get bored. Having compared at least the Latin American educational system has not changed much compared to previous years, it has kept very static and that is why it has not been able to improve in many subjects, especially English and that of self-knowledge is highly valued. And well, there I also connected a little bit of my story because I would like to study in the United States. Here [in Peru], the only thing they more or less evaluate is only the academic part, and if you do not pass well, if not, you do not enter the university. Instead, the application of the United States is a bit more holistic, you don’t have to do rehearsals. Well, there is also an academic part there, but it is more varied. So, well, and I would also like to inspire people one way or another, also used as the platform of Edulimitless to provide opportunities to democratize these types of calls that exist. But many times people do not know that they exist. For example, years ago I did not know about organizations, programs, etc. While it is true [COVID] has been a negative because there have been many deaths, it has also been like an introspection space for many people, to find themselves and also to get out of their comfort zone, to look for more opportunities.
Victoria Foley: So, what was it like to start especially during this pandemic?
Gustavo Heredia: Well, something beneficial, let’s say, because since everything is online and as I mentioned, more people started to enter into this world, so connecting with them became somewhat easier, right? But it was also a challenge because everyone that they were engaging with was through that new model of virtuality. They had never done the classes virtually. I didn’t know it was until this year good last year because it started to be used, so it was like the turning point of all people I think. It’s also been a space to work collectively.
Victoria Foley: What have been some of the obstacles you’ve encountered?
Gustavo Heredia: The main one was that when starting, there were not many people I could count on because we were few volunteers. Not many know where to look for places like [Edulimitless]… So we only taught a few [classes]. It was mostly by process of convocation. So that too had me discouraged at times because you can’t cover all the people. However, as the project grew and they had more people who found out, more began to arrive. So that was one. More than anything, I didn’t know how to teach. People always taught me. So at times it had been kind of boring [to teach]. Then the time came when if I had to look for dynamic teaching tools so the students could enjoy learning. So it was like a whole process of acquiring skills as well. That’s something that I like about projects is that you always learn something.
Victoria Foley: What would you say to someone who is thinking of starting something like the Edulimitless?
Gustavo Heredia: I would tell you to do a lot more research, to fall in love with the problem. Many times we want to throw ourselves in front of stuff and solve many things and we say yes, I am going to do this, but at the end of the day we do not know if it is really the right thing or we do not know how much it could, to what extent it could generate a greater impact or could it be expanded. So it is very necessary to evaluate the problem, relate it to your own history, see assets, associations, allies and allies. It is a fundamental part because if not, you are only going to stay focused on your perspective and you will not know that of other organizations. Speaking of perspective, now is this point of always listening to the beneficiaries, right? For example, if we are talking of education, always listen to what students, parents need, also listen to the perspective of the government, perhaps and well, cover all the stories we have and build one together. Yes, it must be done. It is always good to generate a type of change. It is nice to be remembered.
Victoria Foley: Yes, I really love that phrase. Nice to be remembered.
Gustavo Heredia: Okay, so so you know that your life had a purpose, because let’s see if you’re going to die. I don’t know how I would remind you of that one person, maybe a nice memory that you have had an impact on that person.
Victoria Foley: Yes Yes. Wow. So how can people get involved with Edulimitless?
Gustavo Heredia: Well, the registration is always open, we don’t usually close it. So if you have any kind of knowledge,be it in dance, theater, mathematics, biology or chess or any type of subject. It can actually be a part of us. You can register in a form that is in the description of our Instagram page. We are like Edu in English.
Victoria Foley: Perfect. [All Latin American people can register]. I have one last question for you.
Gustavo Heredia: Tell me, Victoria.
Victoria Foley: What is an easy act of service that everyone can do every day?
Gustavo Heredia: Oh, great question. I think that saying hello costs nothing and I think it shows a lot of respect. The fact of greeting with a smile, above all, can change a person’s day and change that person’s day. It can change someone else’s life. I am exaggerating with this last part of changing a person’s life, but maybe this person who is impacted may be going through a bad time or etc, etc. So it’s always pretty. I don’t know how to transmit this good vibe… waving, smiling…
Victoria Foley: Gustavo was one of my [LALA Virtual Leadership Bootcamp] coaches and I can assure you that you really know how to smile. It’s perfect, it’s perfect. Gustavo, thank you very much today!
Gustavo Heredia: Thank you very much, Victoria!
Victoria Foley: Well, we will talk very soon.
Gustavo Heredia: I hope so. Take care, Vicky.
Luis Gustavo Heredia Vasquez tiene 18 años, es peruano y le apasiona la educación, la política, y el liderazgo. Empezó Edulimitless, que busca contribuir con la educación de calidad en Latinoamérica bajo el enfoque de las inteligencias múltiples. Esta organización ya ha hecho clases de inglés, desea promover los idiomas indigenas, y ser personas sirviendo el mundo. Además, Gustavo ha sido parte de las organizaciones Global Citizen of the Year y LALA (Latin American Leadership Academy). Afuera de los estudios, él lee poemas y le encanta viajar. Él destaca la importancia del auto-conocimiento y, nos enseña cómo y por qué este tema debería ser parte de la educación.