ISJ Essay: College Mentoring Program 2024: St. Ignatius Loyola and LSA Partnership

Jul 8, 2024

The song, “ For Good,” accompanied the slideshow, highlighting the achievements of the students in the LSA-ISJ College Access Program. “People come into our lives for a reason, Bringing something we can learn, And we are led, To those that help us most to grow, And we help them in return.” These lyrics speak to us about mutuality and capture the essence of this program, now in its second year. Terry, a mentor, provided an example of this mutuality when he said, “Our reward comes when the students excitedly open their college acceptance envelopes to find they not only have achieved their dream of college admission but with scholarship money as well.”

Wallace Hall was transformed on Saturday, June 29th, adorned with graduation decorations as we celebrated the achievements of the class of 2024. Melina Gonzalez, LSA, and Fr. Yesalonia welcomed everyone to the celebration. Each mentor spoke in glowing tributes about their student and mentioned highlights from the year that enriched their lives. Terry and Dolores Quinn shared how they bonded with Vivianna during a rain-drenched tour of Stony Brook University. Laura and Jazmine created a bond when Jazmine was comfortable to ask for help. Daniel took the initiative to pursue environmental science, a cause that is also dear to Nick and Fran Naccari. Regan Orillac and Blanca shared tears of joy as Regan highlighted the
fraught circumstances that Blanca had to overcome and how she excelled despite her circumstances.

The students expressed their gratitude to their mentors and the College Access Program. Daniel described it as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” This opportunity is life-changing and St. Ignatius Loyola was described by Melina as “the light at the end of the tunnel,” as LSA had the dream but needed a partner to help them navigate the college application system. Jacqueline, a rising college sophomore, and the catalyst for this program spoke in glowing terms of how Laura Silvius still plays a vital role in her life and how she is the family she needs in addition to her own family.

Fr. Yesalonia welcomed and congratulated the students on their academic achievements and acknowledged the role the mentors played in their success by asking the young students to be motivated to help others when they encounter a neighbor in need. This message of mutuality is the ingredient that makes LSA special and was the title of a recent book, Mutuality in El Barrio, Stories of the Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service. It is widely recognized that contributions made by Melina Gonzalez and Lucia Aguilar to the success of this program go far beyond their daily roles with LSA. In her closing speech, Lucia said, “Payment is seeing you succeed.”

This event marked both an end and a beginning of what we endeavor to be a cycle of success, as we have begun working with the next class of seniors and juniors. Some of the families were in attendance at Saturday’s celebration, as well as families from 11th grade as we continue to assist LSA when a need is recognized.

  • Jimmy Coffey, Ignatian Social Justice Ministry member