El Puente: A Call to Action

By Karin Forsthoefel

Excerpt from Invisible Boundaries, by Ivette Álvarez, a poem from Red Hot Salsa by Lori M Carlson:

Don’t they realize we could

           go beyond the stereotypes that

           lock us down and judge us?

I walk the streets and I become frantic.

           I desperately want

           out of this cycle.

I refuse to have my name

           added to the list of nobodies who

didn’t become anything because they

           weren’t strong enough to fight.

I want to become

           someone important, I must

           overcome the invisible boundaries.

This young Latina expresses a feeling that many young Latino adolescents frequently feel: stuck in a cycle of expectations and norms that was created for them by a lack of opportunity for their ancestors and elders, and driven by an eagerness to break free and discover new potential within themselves. They are calling out to us for help, and we have the power to tap into that potential and help them break boundaries.

To bring this closer to home, what if I tell you that over 20% of the adolescents (ages 10-17) in the Twin Towers neighborhood of East Dayton are Hispanic, and only 10.5% of all members of the neighborhood have higher than a High School diploma (statisticalatlas.com/neighborhood/Ohio/Dayton/Twin-Towers).

El Puente is a non-profit organization providing after-school tutoring and care for the children of the Twin Towers Neighborhood in East Dayton. It was created for the educational success of young Latino children and adolescents who are first-generation college students. At the University of Dayton, we have established a club on campus to raise awareness of the educational gap among immigrants such as the Latino population in Dayton, and to advocate for an end to the poverty cycle created by this gap through our participation in the community. I have been involved in El Puente for two years now, and through my involvement with the organization, I have gained many important skills and learned many valuable lessons about family, faith, diversity and communication. As current co-president of the El Puente chapter at the University of Dayton, I strive to continue recruiting students as volunteers or workers for the El Puente center and to spread awareness of our mission. In monthly meetings on campus, we pray for the community and discuss their needs and current situation, remind ourselves of our mission, and debrief our struggles and successes throughout each week of tutoring.  

Not only do we educate to diversity, but we all come from our own diverse backgrounds and interests. Club members come from all majors and all cultures. Many speak Spanish, and many do not. El Puente is an organization with a vision for social justice in our local community, and we can all bring our gifts and talents to unite through this common thread.

If you are looking to serve the Dayton community, consider where your gifts and talents lie. Do you enjoy working with children? Do you enjoy challenging yourself through communication in another language? Do you strive to sew justice in your local community? Do you have a passion for social justice advocacy and awareness? Are you strong in your faith, and looking to find inspiration in diversity and service to the community? Are you eager to live out your faith and act on our call to care for the poor and vulnerable? If we all bring our unique visions, passions, and strengths to the table, we can transform the community, working hand-in-hand with El Puente to paint a brighter future for the many Latino immigrant families in the city of Dayton.

If interested, please contact Karin Forsthoefel and Kate Galfano, co-presidents of the El Puente chapter at UD, at elpuenteud@gmail.com.

Let us pray:

O God, you have made of one blood all the people of the earth, but you have also richly blessed us with a world of many languages, cultures and traditions. We thank you today for the many contributions which Hispanic Americans have made – and continue to make – to our great country. Enable us always to learn from and appreciate each other. Make us even stronger as one nation because of our diverse gifts and experiences. Instill in us a greater desire to take action for justice, working together to provide equal opportunities for the education and success of all people. Grant us patience and perseverance as we trust in you with our work and our lives. Amen.

(adapted from Hispanic Heritage Month Prayer by Mitchell Lewis, on his blog at milewis.wordpress.com)

Previous Post

How Catholic Education Has Enriched My Life

Celebrate National Catholic Schools Week - Jan. 29 - Feb. 4, 2017
Read More
Next Post

UD Center Serves America?s Catholic Schools

Catholic schools provide a balanced academic curriculum that integrates faith, culture, and life.
Read More