Colorado Springs, Colo., Oct 8, 2011 / 11:19 am
The first thing one notices when entering Santa Luisa School is the massive, solid metal fencing and doors that shield it from one of the roughest neighborhoods of San Salvador, El Salvador. Once those doors close, the chatter of the marketplace and the blaring car horns and police sirens are replaced by the voices of children playing during gym class or shoes shuffling from class to class.
For the more than 500 boys and girls — mostly from poor or destitute families — who get a K-9 education at Santa Luisa, the school is an oasis from a city suffocating from drugs, gangs and violence. For many students, Santa Luisa represents their best chance to break out of the cycle of poverty that surrounds them daily.
Santa Luisa is beginning its 76th year and would not have reached its milestone 75th year without the aid of a group of alumni from the University of Scranton (Pa.). Led by Jesuit Father Brendan Lally, who now serves as a spiritual director at St. Joseph University in Philadelphia, the non-profit Salvadoran Children of the Poor Education Foundation (SCOPE) has helped Santa Luisa meet its annual budget and supply basic needs for the past decade.
SCOPE is the product of two immersion programs Fr. Lally steered over two decades at the University of Scranton. The first, International Service Program, began in 1987 and takes students and alumni to two homes for street children in Mexico City for six weeks of the summer. Its success spawned a second program, Bridges to El Salvador, formed after Father Lally’s heart was moved by the Catholic witness of the people there.