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Educating the world’s children is everyone’s responsibility.

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above photos courtesy Abby Ross      

lisa in class
A New Video About Our Mission
See the Netza Video
posted by Another Day in Paradise
Slide show: Making Dreams Real

A Message from the Founder


The Netza Project is a US-501-C3 charitable corporation that operated from 2005 to 2011 to advance international understanding, literacy, respect for indigenous languages and culture, and to help provide access to education for all children, regardless of their economics, gender, or social standing. Our principal region of operation has been North America, including the countries of México, the United States, and Canada, with the aim of improving cultural understanding, friendship and peace across borders and generations.

holding a pictureEven prior to the formation of the 501-C3, our on-the-ground community work to foster dynamic multi-level local and international partnerships focused in the region of Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa, México. We expanded to visit and assist in several State of Guerrero mountain villages, including a remote orphanage. These projects serve many Aztec, migrante street and other at-risk youth, as well as women and families deeply stressed by poverty and cultural barriers, and sometimes separated across borders. These young people and their families are greatly in need of encouragement to achieve their goals in education, and to preserve their languages and cultures. Their aim is to attain a better quality of life, free from poverty and its related health problems and social barriers, and to be lifted from disempowerment. Education – especially for girls – gives voice and choice, and it provides a proven avenue toward these vital objectives.

The Netza Project's namesake and best known project site has been the Escuela Netzahualcoyotl, or the "Netza" School, in south coastal Pacific Zihuatanejo; a very unique six-language public Federal school, or Escuela Bi-Lingue. In 1995, the school was founded under a tree with just 20 indigenous children and Chicleros (children who sell Chiclets gum and trinkets on the beaches and streets) - ages 6, 7 and 8 by educator and school director Marina Sánchez Hernández. She is a remarkable Nahuatl indigenous woman and highly experienced school principal and teacher whose life's work has been to advance education and opportunity for Mexicoás native and neediest children and families.

Today, the Netzahualcoyotl School is a state-certified locally sustainable public school still working hard to maintain its special charter to educate and welcome the urban migrant indigenous and multi-lingual children, and to invite any child into public school education that may wish to attend. And over the over twenty years of its existence, it has helped hundreds of children access brighter futures. For some, Spanish is not their first language: they speak Nahuatl, Amusgo, Tlapaneco or Mixteco at home, and thus may be at might be at risk of not attending other local Spanish-only schools.

The Netza School provides a vital education choice option for hundreds of youth and families, many of whom are headed by single mothers who may also not be literate or economically empowered enough to enroll their children in other schools. The Netza staff are Federal employees, paid like other public school teachers by the government, administered at the state level in the Department of Indigenous Education in Chilpancingo. The school buildings were built in partnership with the Federal and state government and in some cases aided by resources from several Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa city mayors, over the course of 15 years. The parents maintain the school, and the land it is on was permanently deeded for the Federal purpose of education.

Many visitors and volunteers have helped landscape and improve the site including international youth and adult service teams, and sailors and other friends from the Zihuatanejo charitable community, including in the past (1999 to 2009) Zihua SailFest. Indeed, The Netza School was the inspiring first school Zihua SailFest chose to support.

2010 Scholarship Winners

Photo caption: THE NETZA SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM CREATES TODAY'S YOUNG LEADERS. Over the years, more than 35 students received multi-year advanced education scholarships in Netza Club Tekuani (Jaguar Club) Leadership development program.

Pictured here, with the help of visiting Rotarians from The Royal City Rotary Club in New Westminster. B.C., 22 Netza primary school alumni students received scholarship payments to help them achieve their education dreams in middle school, high school and college. Funding for 2010-2011 year scholarships is also supported by private individuals, Grace Church of Bainbridge Island, Bainbridge Island Rotary and our Rotarian amigos in Canada. Today (2017), several of these students are proud college graduates (1), many completed high school, and the all have the essential foundations to create better careers and family lives in their communities.

Ociel Alonso

Photo caption: (2017) Nahuat Méxican Ociel Alonso was the first Netza Scholarship student at age 11. Today, at 23, is he a proud top-achieving college graduate with an excellent job as a corporate accountant at the local Coca Cola distribution center in ZIH.

The Netza Project, a US charitable corporation, did not manage or operate the school, however, is has been a valued local and international partner in helping create awareness of need, and to aid in partnership funding and careful custodianship of funds and resources that helped develop the school into one of the most improved schools in the region. Dozens of US and Canada Rotary Clubs, several Rotary International grants, and hundreds of schools and private donors – from England to Alaska – have all been contributors to the success of this school, which today continues to serves several hundred children in primary school education, right in the heart of the community where they live.

Ribbon Cutting

The Netza Project's mission is complete, now that the school is constructed and locally sustainable. Dozens of Netza primary school graduates have continued on into middle and high school, several into college: an amazing achievement.


From A To Zih: Two Women, Two Cultures, One Dream In October, 2016, Marina opened a new local non-profit venture in Zihuatanejo, the Kalmekak learning center, where anyone, any age, can take free Nahuatl and Spanish language literacy classes. Children come for after-school tutoring, and adults – mostly women – have access to literacy and other vital resources through Marina's tireless work as a translator and a community and social justice advocate. She continues her life-long commitment to bringing positive change and access to education and better lives in México for all. Tourists and international visitors are welcome to sit in on the classes, too!

Forthcoming in 2017 is my book about the remarkable founder of The Netza School, the children, our many partners, and the risks and joys we encountered in seeking lasting change and support. Today I am finding the original Netza School students and reporting on their lives. The results are amazing and inspiring.

Proceeds from the book FROM A TO ZIH: TWO WOMEN, TWO CULTURES, ONE DREAM will support the Kalmekak and our ongoing endeavors to bring education and opportunity to all.

Three Students

If you plan visit ZIH, ask me how you can bring supplies, bilingual or Spanish story books, and other methods of support for this exciting "next chapter" endeavor at the Kalmekak (which means school in the beautiful Aztec language Nahuatl).

We say Muchas Gracias to all who contributed to support in the past, and in years to come.

Thank you for your interest and passion to make a difference, and create doors of opportunity and bridges of cultural understanding across borders.

Lisa B. Martin, Founder and Former Executive Director
The Netza Project

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