Moved by Sebastian Torres’s stories of growing up in Colombia—stories of internally displaced people and the decades-long armed conflict—and following the historic 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC, Andrew Hanna and Torres, students at Tampa’s Jesuit High School, were inspired to act. And with the hope of broadening opportunities for their Colombian peers, Hanna and Torres decided that education was the key.

“We decided to specifically target education because of its sustainability”, they explained. “In our experiences, education has opened the gateway to specialize in the fields that we are most interested in and [those that] consistently feed our intellectual curiosities. Even in the current scheme, education has directly allowed the both of us to flourish and grow in ourselves”.

Once Torres and Hanna’s idea to support education initiatives in Colombia had sparked, it was time to find a partner to work with.

“We came into contact with Fe y Alegría and after countless hours of planning and meeting; we were in the position to put our work into effect”, they said. “We decided to try and use Tampa Jesuit’s Mission Drive Day to help us achieve this goal because of the fundraising capability and student initiative. The Mission Drive is a yearly project for around one month during which the student body of Jesuit Tampa donates toward a specific cause, this year being to education for Colombian children [and youth]”.

Sebastian Torres, Junior (Year 11), 17 years old

Tampa Jesuit’s Mission Drive usually raises over $8,000 each year, but the Mission Drive is an important event because in addition to fundraising, it also helps increase student and community awareness, appealing to the student body, parents and family members of current students, and to school alumni.

“Through the Mission Drive, we are able to spread awareness about the severity of the issue at hand, raise funds, and foster incentive for further action in the student body and even greater Tampa Bay community”, Hanna explained.

Andrew Hanna, Junior (Year 11), 17 years old

Even though their initiative is just starting, the pair already has a few strategies in place well beyond the Mission Drive. They are currently planning a fundraiser to take place over the summer, as well as an immersion trip with other Jesuit Tampa students to Colombia to meet with Fe y Alegría Colombia youth. They also hope to expand ‘By the Roots’—the name they have given to their charter organization—to other schools in the Tampa area, thereby increasing awareness and involvement in their cause.

“As of the focus of eliminating poverty at its source, the inability for future generations to have job opportunities, we decided to name our charter organization ‘By the Roots’, with the goal of pulling up poverty by its roots”, they said.

The duo also has advice to other high school students looking to start initiatives to support Fe y Alegría’s work: if you have a genuine desire to help, speak out and never forget why you are doing the project in the first place. “Odds are there will be someone out there willing to help you help others”, they explained. “There’s a lot of work involved with planning and coordinating an initiative like this, but the amount of people who were more than willing to help us with our cause surprised us”.

For more information on the project that Tampa’s Jesuit High School is supporting this Mission Day, click here.

If you, like Sebastian and Andrew, are encouraged to show your solidarity with children and youth in the Global South, and wish to join us in defending the right to education for all, please get in touch with us!