Limitless Horizons Ixil

We are thrilled to announce that Odilia Cedillo (Odi) and Zuliana Lopez Toledo (Zuli) have taken on the pivotal roles of Country Co-Directors at Limitless Horizons Ixil. After the departure of Managing Director Veronica Yat, Odi (Limitless Horizons Ixil School Director) and Zuli (Limitless Horizons Ixil Assistant Director) are stepping into and sharing the responsibilities of this role. With their passion for community development, dedication to educational empowerment, and deep-rooted commitment to the Maya Ixil community of Chajul, Odi and Zuli embody the values and vision of Limitless Horizons Ixil. Odi and Zuli bring a wealth of experience, fresh perspectives, and a shared determination to continue advancing Limitless Horizons Ixil’s mission of fostering a prosperous, equitable community in Chajul, Guatemala. 

Get to Know Odi and Zuli

As the oldest of her sisters, Odi’s upbringing was modest, filled with chores and responsibilities. She contributed to her family’s livelihood by tending to sheep, weaving her own garments on a backstrap loom, and assisting with household tasks. Despite the absence of books at her school and in her home, she found solace in a neighbor’s small collection, igniting her curiosity for science and the wider world. She admits that she often took candles from her parents’ limited supply to sneak into the kitchen, sit on the dirt floor, and spend her evenings reading. Odi completed elementary and middle school despite her parents not seeing the value in sending a girl to school. 

I have worked with many hundreds of school leaders over the course of my career. For the past two plus years it has been my privilege to work as a coach and consultant with Odi Cedillo. Honestly, Odi is one of strongest school leaders, and instructional leaders, I have ever encountered, anywhere, let alone in Guatemala. Colegio Horizontes is sort of a miracle… as is Odi Cedillo.

Gary Bloom

Author and Educational Consultant

In 2009, she was finally able to convince her father to enroll her in high school in Nebaj, a 3-hour bus ride from her village. After graduating high school in 2011, Odi was able to go on to study at university against all odds. During her tenure as a university student, she was awarded a medal of academic excellence. In 2019, Odi finished her associate’s degree in Pedagogy with a focus in Environmental Studies and a Middle School Teaching Certificate. In 2023, she completed her bachelor’s degree.

From her own experience, Odi is acutely aware that access to quality education is very limited, especially in the Ixil region, but she is also convinced that anyone can defy societal expectations and become a change-maker if they have access to education and pursue their dreams with conviction and purpose. Through her work with Limitless Horizons Ixil, Odi strives to make possible for Chajul youth what felt so far out of reach for her as a young girl. 

Zuli was raised in San Miguel Uspantán, 30 miles east of Chajul, as one of four siblings. Although her parents never had the opportunity to study, they instilled in their children a desire for learning and encouraged them to attend school. However, after Zuli’s oldest brother migrated to the United States Zuli planned to join him. Once there, seeing how hard life was for migrants, he discouraged Zuli from migrating and instead promised to use part of the money he earned to pay for her school tuition and expenses.

From an early age, Zuli was both a great student and athlete. At the age of 15, she was offered a full scholarship to study physical education and play on the handball team at an athletic boarding school. After graduating from high school, she studied sports massage therapy before pursuing a degree in law at the prestigious Universidad Nacional de San Carlos de Guatemala.

Zuli’s lived experience of choosing to study instead of migrating to the United States strongly influences how she views the importance of education. 

Prior to joining Limitless Horizons Ixil in 2017, Zuli worked as a supervisor for a state project that built homes for Guatemalans displaced during the civil war, as a university administrator, and as a counselor of neglected children. Now, Zuli is passionate about helping to empower children, women, and families to overcome societal barriers, and has applied her education and abundant energy to creating educational access, and supporting students’ self esteem by helping them to develop the skills and resilience needed to face adversity and challenges.

I have worked with Zuli for the past 6 years as we planned and built out the new school. With her legal background, communication skills, and keen intellect, she has guided us in all matters relating to the community and the development of the school. She is a self-motivated, focused and detail-oriented person: The natural choice to join Odilia as new Country Co-Director.

Robert Foes

Builder, Volunteer, Donor

Q&A with Zuli and Odi about their new roles with Limitless Horizons Ixil:

Q: What most excites you about your new role at Limitless Horizons Ixil?

Zuli: It excites me to know that the team trusts me and to have this new opportunity to continue my professional growth. I know that we have a great team that’s capable of solving challenges and achieving the vision of the organization.

Odi: What excites me most about this new role is the opportunity to continue to grow both personally and professionally while contributing to the vision of the organization from a strategic role. I am excited to work to implement innovative processes based on current capabilities and to continue strengthening our organizational culture based on commitment, continuous improvement, teamwork, and adaptability.

Q: What changes have you seen in the community of Chajul as a result of Limitless Horizons Ixil’s work?

Odi: One of the main changes Limitless Horizons Ixil has generated in the community is the value people of Chajul now place on education. Because of Limitless Horizons Ixil’s wraparound programming, involvement of families in their children’s education, and our “ecosystem” approach to education, education is now valued and considered a fundamental pillar for both individual and community development. Limitless Horizons Ixil has also contributed to reducing gender inequality gaps in Chajul by purposefully admitting a higher percentage of girls to programs. This, in turn, helps girls visualize a more hopeful future, access more opportunities, and understand their decision-making power. Last but not least, most of our graduates currently have jobs in the community or are working with us at Limitless Horizons Ixil. These results help reaffirm that the organization is achieving its vision of creating a thriving, equitable community with access to education and employment opportunities, while preserving its Maya cultural identity.

Zuli: I have noticed that it is now much more common for students to get higher degrees of education. Now, all Limitless Horizons Ixil high school graduates who have gone on to study a university degree have formal jobs in the community. 

Q: What do you most enjoy about your job with Limitless Horizons Ixil?

Zuli: Our philosophy of women’s empowerment and gender equity—I appreciate that we have men at school who are learning to be allies to women and girls and in this way putting into practice our value of gender equity daily.

Odi: The feeling of belonging in an environment where I can be myself and reaffirm myself as an indigenous woman and professional without fear of making mistakes because I have a group of people who support me. I am breaking stereotypes by being an example for children and adolescents, and spending time with extraordinary human beings who are committed to transforming lives through education.