Pulling Up Poverty by Its Roots

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!


Catharine Steffens: “We are called to be in solidarity with the poor and marginalized across our vast Jesuit Network”

Written by Catharine S. Steffens, Georgetown Preparatory School

“An hour outside of Buenos Aires you find the town of San Miguel. While one side of the town has beautiful weekend and family homes, the other side shows a different reality. This side of San Miguel is where the Centro Educativo de Nivel Secundario and the Centro de Formación Profesional are located. These Fe y Alegría Centers have their arms wide open to a population who have not had the opportunity to finish secondary school or to complete job training that would aid in professional placement and advancement. These Centers are active in the quest to close the opportunity gap with the powerful tool of education. Fe y Alegría Argentina promotes and facilitates free education for children and adults in the most marginalized and excluded populations of Argentina.

This August I was privileged to spend a day at the Centro de Formación Profesional en San Miguel. After a warm and informative welcome from the Fe y Alegría Argentina team at their offices in Colegio del Salvador we headed out to the Center. The first group we looked in on were the women in the sewing course. They were working through creating, sizing and sewing skirt patterns. Each of the courses at the Center result in a professional certificate so these are serious courses with clear goals, checkpoints and tasks to complete. We immediately fell into conversation with these lovely women who were of all ages. We walked away from there with gifts of hand bordered washcloths and some purchases of kitchen mitt and apron sets.



From there we progressed through courses for welding, electrical engineering, ironworks, plumbing and auto mechanics. While mostly men in the classes. we were pleased to observe, some women as well. Many of the adults in these courses were studying for job advancement opportunities within their current employments. This Center provides the opportunity to entry level worker to gain expertise and to achieve higher level diplomas and certificates. They are focused on leveling the playing field within the professional world.

We found our last stop of the evening by following the scent of choripan wafting in the air! This was the cooking course where chefs-to-be were mixing and proofing yeast dough for a typical Argentine biscuit. We were lucky to also have arrived the night a fundraiser was underway to purchase a churro machine and by selling choripan, that delicious Argentine sandwich of chorizo in baguette. We were first in line!

As Jesuit educators, we are called to be in solidarity with the poor and marginalized, we are also being called on to collaborate across our vast Jesuit Network. The time spent with the Fe y Alegría team and the adult participants of the Professional Formation Center was a clear experience of this faith and justice in action. We thank them for a beautiful visit.”

Snow Cones for Haiti: From St. Louis to Port-au-Prince


[St. Louis University High School students Andrew Modder, Blake Johnson and Michael Rueckert, founding members of the SLUH Snow Cone Club.]

When Andrew Modder and Blake Johnson, then juniors at St. Louis University High School, first attended the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice in 2015, the annual gathering hosted by the Ignatian Solidarity Network, they had no idea they would leave as Friends of Fe y Alegría in the US’ first “ambassadors”.

“Our first encounter with Fe y Alegría came at the Teach-In,” they explained. “Curious about the program,  we decided to sit in on one of their presentations.” Immediately inspired by Fe y Alegría’s education work around Latin America and Africa, the two friends decided to find a way to become involved and show solidarity from their school community in St. Louis. “We had received such a quality Jesuit education ourselves at SLUH, so we were motivated to give that gift of education to those that couldn’t access it.”

Upon returning to school after the Teach-In, the pair, stumped on what to do with Fe y Alegría, consulted with their friend and classmate Michael Rueckert on how they could fundraise for an education project in a “fun and creative way”. “One day we were doing homework together,” explained Johnson, “and I explained to him the problem and he responded, ‘Bro, what if we sold snow cones? I have a snow cone machine at my house!’ and thus the SLUH Snow Cone Club was born.”

2016-09-23 Snow Cone Club15KAC

[“Bro, what if we sold snow cones? I have a snow cone machine at my house!” Thus the SLUH Snow Cone Club was born.]

With that simple, yet creative idea, the three students took advantage of the warm fall weather and went about selling snow cones after school once a week or after special school events with the help of friends. (“Every event is usually capped off with a fun snowball fight with the leftover ice.”) In just six short months, they have raised over $300 for Fe y Alegría’s work in Haiti, specifically through a project that gives teachers values-based education tools to promote peace and gender equity in their classrooms.

We believe every human being on Earth has a right to an education, and frankly that’s not the reality of our world,” they said. “As students at SLUH, we’ve received a fantastic education and many of us plan on attending college after high school. Our hope is to at least give others a taste of the education that we’ve been so blessed to receive.”

While the trio will graduate this May, they are hoping that the club can continue well beyond their time at SLUH with a new group of students taking the lead and also hope to aspire other students around the Jesuit Schools Network to join Fe y Alegría and defend the right to education around the world.

“Our advice to other students would be to think of something creative to bring as much attention to the cause as possible,” they explained. “We’ve received many questions like ‘Why are you guys selling snow cones?’, which allows us to bring awareness to Fe y Alegría. The more the original and creative the idea, the more buzz it will bring!”

“Though we’re making just a little impact,” explained Johnson, “we know that our efforts can make a difference.”

To follow the SLUH Snow Cone Club on Instagram, click here.

[SLUH Snow Cone Club was started in September 2016 and has raised over $300 for projects in Haiti.]