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Meet the Team
Kevin Yonkers-Talz, M.Ed., M.S.
Co-Founder and Co-Director, Casa de la Solidaridad
Kevin is immensely proud of his four daughters–Sophia (13), Grace (11), Hannah (8), and Emma (3) and absolutely loves being a father. He is grateful for his work, which allows him to accompany college students from the U.S. as they encounter the reality of life in El Salvador. Kevin's academic interests lie in college student development theory and theology. He studied economics and psychology at Fairfield University and received his M.S. in college student personnel services from Miami University. He then studied at Boston College (M.Ed.) and has his doctoral degree in international and multicultural education from the University of San Francisco.
Trena Yonkers-Talz, M.Ed., M.S.
Co-Founder and Co-Director, Casa de la Solidaridad
Trena loves how working with the Casa program enables her to connect her vocations as a mom and as an educator. She loves being mom to her four daughters (Sophia, Grace, Hannah, and Emma). With the Casa program, she most enjoys spending time in the praxis site communities with the students. In both of her jobs, she is constantly learning about life and love and being reminded how alive God is in our world. Her academic interests lie in college student development theory and liberation/feminist theology. She studied accounting as an undergrad at Grand Valley State University and received her M.S. in college student personnel services from Miami University and an M.Ed. in religious education from Boston College. She also enjoys running, baking cookies, and exploring Central America with her family. Trena also has a strong connection to her roots in Hastings, Michigan, where she grew up on a goat, sheep, and asparagus farm. Trena and Kevin worked with Jesuit Volunteers: International in Belize, Central America for two years prior to their work in El Salvador.
Community Coordinator, Casa Romero
Michelle is so excited to be back working with the Casa and cannot wait for the year ahead to unfold. She is orginally from Leadville, Colorado where she learned her love for the outdoors. She graduated from Santa Clara University with a double major in Sociology and International Development. Her time as a student at the Casa was absolutely transformative and she is looking forward to accompanying the students as they encounter the deep joy and suffering that exists in this country. She loves tea, being outside, laughing with good friends, genuine conversations, adventure, El Salvador and the Casa program. She has no idea what will come after her year as a Community Coordinator but could not think of anywhere she would want to be more for the next year and knows she has so much to learn from the students, Salvadorans and Casa staff!
Community Coordinator, Casa Silvia
Ted grew up mostly in Cheyenne, Wyoming with his sister Maureen and brother Thomas as the oldest child of John and Becky Lynch. At Regis University in Denver, he studied chemistry and minored in Spanish while also staying involved in University Ministry. Studying at the Casa de la Solidaridad in the spring of 2012, his experience led him to conduct research on the gang truce that occurred in El Salvador and compose his honors thesis based on the synthesis of the two before graduating in May of 2013. In Wyoming he enjoys hunting, fishing, kayaking and rock climbing and on a hot day a large thermos for Terere. Right now Ted's future plans don't really extend past focusing all of his energy on Casa activities, (which is says he is completely content doing) but he thinks that one day he will go to graduate school.
Community Coordinator, Casa Ita
Ella is so excited to return to El Salvador and work as a Community Coordinator for the Casa this year. While originally from Amherst, Massachusetts, Ella decided to venture across the country and study at the University of San Diego, where she was able to experience a new culture and a new coast. At USD, Ella majored in Ethnic Studies and minored in Spanish and Peace and Justice Studies. Ella was fortunate enough to participate in the Casa de la Solidaridad program in the fall of 2011. As a student, Ella fell in love with the Salvadoran people and culture, and was transformed as she experienced a reality so unlike her own. As a CC, Ella is excited to accompany the students on their journey, and is ready to share in the beauty, growth, and joy that El Salvador has to offer. In Ella's free time she loves to go on runs, get creative in the kitchen, travel, hike, go on long bike rides, and be around supportive and vibrant people. As of now, Ella is staying present to her experience in El Salvador, and has faith that the next chapter of her journey will be just as life giving as this one.
Lidia, Francisca, Lupita, Zarita, and Rosa
Lupita, Rosa, Frani, Lidia and Zarita comprise one of the most important teams on staff. They serve the Casa students in a variety of ways: as support people, as educators about the lives of average Salvadorans, and as cooks. Lidia has worked as a cook with the Jesuits for over 17 years. Elba Ramos, the housekeeper who was murdered with the Jesuits, taught her how to cook. Each semester, students reflect on the immense importance that these wise women have on their experience. We are grateful they are on staff.
Coordinator for Communications
Originally from San Salvador, Clara graduated from the University of Central America (UCA) in October 2006 with a major in communications. She worked as a journalist for La Prensa Gráfica three years in the area of public health. Clara finished her master's degree from the Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea in Spain during 2009. Now she works with the Casa program but also is writing economics reports from Central America for a Colombian magazine. Clara loves coffee! But she also enjoys writing, reading, traveling (especially with friends), and spending time with her family.
Romero Scholarship Student Program
The Romero Program is a Salvadoran sister program of the Casa de la Solidaridad. It began in August 2004 as a small group of scholarship students who lived with the Casa students, and since has grown to support more than 25 Salvadoran university students. Griselda and Julio were some of the first Salvadoran students who began the Romero Program, and after much experience with the Casa, they are now working full time as co-coordinators of the Romero Program.
Director, Romero Program
Julio has worked with the Romero Program since 2004. He graduated from the University of Central America with a major in accounting. He is originally from Los Sitios, Jayaque in La Libertad. He loves telling jokes, dancing, and peaches. He also enjoys spending time with his family, especially his young nieces and nephews.
Formation Coordinator, Romero Program
Griselda has worked with the Romero Program since 2004. She graduated with a major in business administration from the University of Central America and studied for one semester at Santa Clara University in an exchange program. Gris is originally from Mariona, a town near San Salvador. She loves spending time with her family, especially her husband, Nelson, and her one-year-old son, Davisito.