Maria Paz Gutierrez

So poor was the education she received at her public high school, Pilar Vega Martinez had to take an extra year to study for the Prueba de Selección Universitaria — the Chilean version of the SAT.

The work paid off. Her score on the exam was good enough to get her into the top-rated University of Chile. Vega is now in her third year, studying to be a nurse. And thanks to an important change in government policy, life got easier after that: She didn't have to pay.

In western Colombia, the Petronio Alvarez festival is the big event of the summer — five days of music and food and fashion. More than 100,000 people travel from all over the world to the city of Cali, where they celebrate the culture of the country's Afro-Colombian Pacific region. It's a huge party.