Formed in public university, the student is great-granddaughter of slaves, has worked with the UN and is the first of the family to leave the country. To help with the campaign, click HERE

Text / Solon Neto
Images / Personal Archive


In 1959, after completing 100 years old, Sebastiana Sylvestre Correa reminded the Correio Popular newspaper of Campinas of the conquest of her freedom after the bitter years as a slave. Her dream was to learn to read, and her desire for education inspired the next generations of her family.

Mariana Tavares is her great-granddaughter, and performs one of the dreams of her ancestral going far beyond what she imagined. The 24-year-old African descent journalist was recently accepted for a Masters degree at a respected institution in Geneva, Switzerland. The first of the family to go so far.

Sebastiana Correa, 100 years. Mariana's great-great grandmother was enslaved, dreamed of learning to read, and left value for education as a legacy for her family (Photo: Persnoal Archive)

The student intends to specialize in the area of International Cooperation and Development, and wants to research race and gender during the period in Europe.
The Master's in "Anthropology and Sociology of Development" at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies will provide a partial scholarship for the student that covers 75% of all of her costs in the country.

To continue to fulfill this ancient desire, however, it was necessary to do a crowdfunding campaign. The journalist opened a campaign to get the R$ 10,000 that separate her from Switzerland. You can contribute until July 7 with any value by clicking HERE.

Mariana's goal is very close, and she trusts the campaign will work out: "I am hopeful that with the collective funding I will be able to realize this dream”.

Merit is not lacking

It is not the first time that Mariana is recognized by its merits. In 2015 she graduated in journalism at a public institution, UNESP, completing the course with the documentary "Black Journalist: Gender and Color”.

At university, she perfected her English skills and learned French, which ensured that she got an in at the United Nations.

At the UN, she has worked on the Joint United Nations Program on HIV / AIDS (UNAIDS) in Brasilia, where she also sold semi-jewels are also sold to cover expenses. The effort was rewarded and hired as Communications Consultant for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Also in Brasilia, she joined the Communications Team of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Photo of the "Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies" in Geneva, Switzerland. The institute is one of the most respected in the world. (Photo: Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies)

Mariana has been in Switzerland. In 2016, she was approved at the OHCHR Fellowship for People of African Descent in Geneva, when she was able to take her great-great-grandmother’s story to the UN headquarters. This visit has aroused her interest in studying at Graduate Institute, where she already returned with the inscription made to try the Master: "On this occasion I had the opportunity to know more about the Graduate Institute and the interest increased even more. While I was in Switzerland, I applied for my master's degree. " From then on, the journalist began to prepare to try the admission. "For a year I prepared to apply for a master's degree and scholarship," she says.

Expectation and satisfaction

The days before the announcement of the result, Mariana and her family were very anxious. Geneva is one of the most expensive cities in the world. The high Swiss standard of living is guaranteed by taxes that are everywhere. Whether or not the partial scholarship was the only chance to continue dreaming, and even knowing the financial difficulties, the student went ahead.

Video recorded by the student Mariana for the campaign of collective financing

"I started to shake, I took a deep breath and started to read the site. When I read 'Confirmé' for the master's degree and the Acceptée - Réduction (75%) scholarship, I started to shake and cry “.

On hearing the noise, her father appeared scared and was moved to read, along with the daughter, the letter of acceptance of the Swiss institution. "My father always told me ‘the no, you already have, it does not cost anything to try the yes'. That was one of the most important 'yes' I received and will be remember for life”.

Education comes from the cradle

Mariana's family members have always valued education. She says that it was the women who dedicated the most to this theme. "The story of women who fought for our family made me have the study opportunities I have today.”

Mariana was lucky enough to live among people who have always believed in education to embarrass racism. "I grew up in a family whose ancestors believed in the power that education could give us so that we could fight against historical barriers imposed on Afro-Brazilians.”

Her great-grandmother has taken the path as a public server in a school in Mogi Mirim-SP. Her grandfather, Lázaro Laércio, also dedicated his life to education and won the respect of his community by founding a school in 1953 in the city of Mirassol-SP, the city's first Professional and Industrial School. Mariana, today, has several family members who continue to work as educators.

Maria Joanna in 1963 and Lázaro Laércio in 1973. Respectively, great-grandmother and grandfather of Mariana. Both worked with education. (Photo: Personal Archive)

In Campinas, where she lived a lifetime, Mariana attended elementary school with a scholarship in private school and was the only African descent woman in the class. She says that one of the most remarkable episodes of the period was a work she did on a story about her family at the age of 11.

As a child, she researched deeply, and discovered the story of her great-great-grandmother Sebastiana Sylvestre Correa. "Strong and persevering, Sebastian decided that the greatest good she could provide to her family would be to give her daughters the opportunity to study and so she did." Mariana says that she took a     unique story to her colleagues. "On that day, at school, amid stories of families from Italy, Germany and other European countries, I was able to proudly present the story of a family from Africa.”

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