10 Good Questions with Amped for Education [Q&A]

Meet Jeff Pluta, the founder and executive director of Amped for Education.

Mar 26, 2015


Amped for Education founder Jeff Pluta

Amped for Education founder Jeff Pluta at the organization's opening ceremony

In this week’s 10 Good Questions, Amped for Education's founder and executive director Jeff Pluta talks to Goodnet about expanding education in developing countries. Currently focusing on Nicaragua, Pluta's organization manages development work in local communities, along with organizing and hosting groups of volunteers. And just like the students, Pluta says he's growing every day: "Amped for Education is just one big learning experience."

1. What is your organization’s mission?

Amped for Education’s overarching goal is to expand education in developing countries, focusing on secondary education. Our current focus is Nicaragua, where education is not mandatory beyond 6th grade.

2. What makes you guys different from the rest?

There are a number of organizations doing service work in Nicaragua, and there are probably even more who organize service-learning trips for volunteers from the US or other so-called western countries. Amped for Education does both, managing the development work that we do with the community, and at the same time organizing and hosting groups of volunteers in Nicaragua. By doing both, we are able to identify specific areas and activities in which to integrate our groups with their Nicaraguan peers, while facilitating the building of relationships beyond simply “volunteering”. We have service learning options from a week to six months, and can - upon request - incorporate a variety of lessons designed by educators to enhance what our participants are able to take away from their experience.

An Amped for Education activity in Nicaragua

An Amped for Education activity in Nicaragua

3. Offices or open work space?

Open work space. Our office is located in the same house (“Casa Roja”) that we all live in. It can sometimes be overwhelming, but can also be the most rewarding part about doing this. Our house is usually littered with anywhere from two to eight people on laptops, on the phone, or meeting with Amped for Education partners.

4. What three words describe your organization?

Adaptable. Empowering. Attitude.

5. What inspires you?

The idea that educating people has a lasting impact that cannot be measured. Education produces and changes outcomes that can be seen for generations.

6. What is the best part about your job?

Learning. Amped for Education is just one big learning experience. Learning things that I wouldn’t otherwise is definitely the best part of my job. That and the fact that I never have to wake up to an alarm.

Volunteer Molly Blake spends time with Nicaraguan students.

Volunteer Molly Blake spends time with Nicaraguan students. 

7. Does your team eat lunch together?

We try to, but the demands of being on the ground in a developing country can unexpectedly take away an afternoon. Whether it’s having our water disconnected, to bringing students on field trips, to meeting with teachers, we’re often out and about.
We are, however, a dinner group. We cook and eat dinner in the house together most nights. We can cook some good Nica food, for sure.

8. Facebook or Twitter?

I’m the least technological person on the team. Director of Operations Sarah Wormann does all of that stuff. We have both (Facebook and Twitter), but they’re linked somehow. And we have Instagram and a YouTube page too.

9. What do you want Goodnet users to know about your organization?

That we are a genuine, hard working group of individuals who have established deep connections in the community over the past four years. This gives us the ability to offer those who visit our projects an organic experience in Nicaragua with those who call it home. Amped for Education has a proven record of turning capital into effective, safe educational opportunities for high school children in Nicaragua. The benefits of having US volunteers travel to Central America with us is often equally as rewarding for them as it is those who they work with in Nicaragua.

10. How can people get involved?

Get a group of 2 or 20 people, of high school or college students or old friends, and come see the difference that your time and energy can make on Nicaraguan students. We have experience with people aged 10-65, and would love to have our experienced staff facilitate your trip to help you more completely understand Nicaragua, the education system, and the nature of our work.
Individuals can also sponsor a student and receive correspondences and academic updates. This helps offset the cost for extra tutoring, excursions, guest speakers, and supplies. For more information, please visit http://ampedforeducation.org/sponsor-a-student/.

Karin is a web expert, developing digital products that make good deeds shine. Among other topics, she writes about happiness, education and volunteering.