I knew that this was going to be an incredible opportunity to witness first hand an amazing organization and the work it was accomplishing for the betterment of the community and the world.
Our experience in Puerto Rico was incredible. The people we met and talked with were so welcoming and open to sharing their stories with us. The environment and culture of the island itself is beautiful and incredibly diverse. Even a year and a half after hurricane Maria, however, the island and people of Puerto Rico are very much still feeling the effects of it. One thing that stood out almost immediately were the stories of resilience. Not just from the hurricane, but many stories of people fighting their whole lives just to keep their homes, to get an education and make sure that the children in the community might have better access to educational programs and opportunities.
I kept thinking about the fact that Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States. Puerto Ricans are American citizens but often (and as we witnessed) they aren’t treated as such. We heard many stories of the governmental response to hurricane Maria and its lingering effects being extremely inadequate and far from on par with the response that the United States must natural disasters on the mainland.
I am so grateful to the Opus Prize and Saint Louis University for allowing me this opportunity."Patrick Jones
We were looking to evaluate Cara con Causa from top to bottom. Using the Opus Prize guidelines, we evaluated every aspect of their mission and how they would be able to use the prize money to further that mission. What we saw in Puerto Rico and the experiences we had seemed to speak for themselves in many ways.
Michael is such a transformational leader. We could see this from the moment we met him. There is just something about him and his ability to lead that stuck with me for the entirety of the trip. His incredible humility and dedication to Caras was not only evident in his words, but in his actions and interactions with the community members.
Everywhere we went, people knew Michael. And Michael knew the people. As someone from our delegation mentioned, Michael could be working anywhere for any company, yet he has dedicated his whole career to service and giving back. Michael is just one big part of this incredible organization. But in our talks about Caras and a recommendation for the award, he was often the topic of our conversation and everyone from our delegation was just absolutely astounded with his leadership and the accomplishments of his organization.
Looking back, I take so much away from this experience. I am so grateful to the Opus Prize and Saint Louis University for allowing me this opportunity. Having reflected on it over the last couple of months, there are a couple things that stand out.
First is very simply how incredibly blessed I have been throughout my life. There are little things that often go unnoticed until you meet someone and hear a story that just puts everything into perspective. Second, is what can be accomplished with steadfast determination and resilience.
Michael and Caras have faced a great deal of adversity over the years. From city officials, to violence in the community, and people resistant to change, nothing has been easy and it would have been very easy to give up at any time. This determination is incredibly inspiring and it’s something that all the staff at Caras mentioned during our visit.
I was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, with a big extended family. I look forward to every opportunity I get to spend with them (especially now being away at college).
I knew that SLU was going to provide me with an incredible education rooted in Catholic values and the Jesuit mission. Beyond that, I knew that I would have so many unique experiences to learn and grow outside of the classroom. I have a great passion for all things aviation.
My involvement here at SLU includes my fraternity (Alpha Delta Gamma), Best Buddies, Camp Kesem, the Micah Learning Community, and I am a Student Ambassador in the Office of Admission. SLU has provided me not only with an incredible education, but also with an immense amount of opportunities to give back to the community and people in need.
Reflection by Patrick Jones, a junior from Louisville, Kentucky, studying aeronautics and marketing. He evaluated Cara con Causa, whose mission is to “promote community development to eradicate poverty through education, the environment and economic development together with the communities of Cataño and Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.