Alum of the Week
Allison & Patrick Reynolds-Berry
We met as undergrads at Loyola University Chicago where Allison studied psychology and Patrick studied political science and international studies. Originally from Naperville, IL, Allison studied at the Casa in the spring of 2005 and returned as a Community Coordinator for the 2006-2007 school year. Patrick is originally from Cincinnati, OH, where we now call home. He studied abroad at the Casa in the spring of 2007.
Allison was introduced to the Casa through an immersion trip to El Salvador and had the opportunity to meet current students and staff who left no question in her mind that the Casa was where she was supposed to be. This was an exciting opportunity to deeply learn about people, politics, and the ways we are all connected. Living in community and processing the experience with peers, who would become lifelong friends, was critical and continues to be treasured. Listening to the stories of families who were torn apart by war or migration and the resilience of the human spirit motivated her to return to volunteer with the Casa after graduation. That year guided her to learn more about the collective power of community and lead her to Boston College’s Graduate School of Social Work. Allison spent five years working as a Community Organizer for REACH Beyond Domestic Violence in Waltham, MA, collaborating with Spanish and English speakers to prevent domestic violence at the community level. She now works as the Executive Director of the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Cincinnati, challenging unjust systems and promoting a non-violent society.
After Allison returned from her semester with the Casa she greatly influenced Patrick’s decision to study there. Her passion and excitement for El Salvador were contagious. As a political science and international studies major, the Casa was a perfect fit him. Patrick remembers feeling academically and emotionally challenged by his courses. This was also his first real encounter with poverty in the developing world and he was often left feeling overwhelmed and challenged by the daunting realities of life for so many in El Salvador – so many he had come to call friends. He grew to love his community mates and the Salvadorans he lived with and worked alongside of in Tepecoyo. After graduating from Loyola he spent two years in Nicaragua with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. This experience was deeply important to him and probably would never have happened if not for the Casa. His time in El Salvador lead him to Nicaragua and that experience, in turn, propelled him back to school. Patrick moved to Boston to pursue a dual master degree from Boston College in pastoral ministry and clinical social work. Patrick currently works for Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio as a bilingual mental health therapist. His experience of living and working in Central America continues to provide unique knowledge, context, and a cultural lens used daily in his work.
Without hesitation we would recommend studying at the Casa. Its unique and distinctive approach of integrating academics with intentionality, accompaniment, and solidarity are hard to find in most other study abroad programs. Allison greatly valued the opportunity to listen to the personal stories of Salvadorans and the importance of sharing a public narrative. Listening inherently requires that we take a step back, recognize that we do not have all the answers and that we need each other. Patrick remembers learning to just be with people, to practice accompaniment as a means for change and justice. We both continually strive to live lives of solidarity through the careers we have chosen, the relationships we foster, and the desire to keep listening to others.