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Alum of the Week

Jason-1

Jason Riley

Program Officer for Eisenhower Fellowships

More than a dozen years after my participation in Casa de la Solidaridad in El Salvador, I still look to this as the most formative experience to date. I often find myself returning to the relationships developed there, the lessons of love and compassion learned, and the formidable spirit of the Salvadorans from which to draw inspiration, motivation and clarity. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had tremendous experiences throughout my life, but still none compares to the time I spent at the Casa.

When I participated in the program, I was a junior at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where I was a Theology major, minoring in Spanish and Faith Justice. What exactly I was hoping to do with a degree in theology, I wasn’t quite sure. It was my particular interest in Liberation Theology that drew me to El Salvador, but it was so much more that made the experience so formative. I mention that only to say, no matter what you study, where you are coming from, this experience has the potential to give you a foundation upon which you can build for the rest of your life – wherever that may take you.

After my graduation from St. Joe’s, I taught high school Spanish for a year before creating and managing the Office of Community Service for Temple University. I drew on many of my experiences in El Salvador to influence the community and international programming that I developed in this role.

Since then, I have completed my Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government. For the past four years I have been serving as a program officer for Eisenhower Fellowships, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing international dialogue and collaboration through professional exchange. There I manage eighteen program administrators in as many countries, and work with some of the most talented leaders in all sectors from the U.S. and international communities.

There’s nothing I can say that I feels adequately captures the profound ways in which the Casa influenced, challenged, and shaped me. What I can say is that it continues to do those things for me thirteen years later. I can’t think of a better investment of time and energy that will undoubtedly pay off for a lifetime.

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