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A Decade of Service

A Decade of Service

This summer, 25 Jesuit High School students were eager to venture far outside of the typical high school student summer comfort zone – and far outside of Tampa – to help the people of a rural community in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Jasper, Ga. is more than 500 miles away, yet the locals in the north Georgia mountain town of fewer than 4,000 residents have forged an unbreakable bond with Jesuit's students. The week of July 15-22 marked the 10-year anniversary of Jesuit’s annual service immersion mission trip to Jasper, where the two-dozen students plus three chaperones once again served those in need.

When their Tampa-to-Jasper caravan arrived at the local Catholic Church, Our Lady of the Mountains, some members of the church and the local Knights of Columbus explained the challenges ahead of them. They would be helping primarily retired and disabled locals with needed labor around their homes and property, while coping with the oppressive heat and intermittent thunderstorms.

The Jesuit students rose to this challenge with a determination to complete all of the tasks and serve the mission of the Lord as ‘Men for Others.’ The students were split into multiple groups each day and assigned various jobs around the community. These included house painting, mowing acres of grass, weeding out invasive plants, pressure washing, and removing trash buildup, among other things.

Lucca Rodrigues ’24 has been a part of the mission for three years, and many details in this year’s trip stuck with him.

“Everything comes full circle,” Rodrigues said. “I have watched this program and community grow, and I have actually seen the work we did two years ago and last year continuing to affect the community in a positive way.”

The students faced new challenges daily, including the changing worksites daily and adjusting group sizes for each project. For every obstacle, the students carried the same message: Be a Man for Others.

“There’s so much more to people than what you see initially,” Rodrigues said. “I’ve had the privilege to go in-depth with many people in Jasper, both the student volunteers and those who we are helping each day. And everyone has a story. You learn after three years that you can’t just judge people by (what’s on the surface). It has helped me to become a better all-around person.”

At the end of each day, time was set aside for reflection. Chaperone Erick Alvarez Gil, a Jesuit math teacher, would lead the evening prayer and reflection, and the students would discuss their day and the meaningful experiences.

“Those were moments of mutual enrichment in which we reminded each other of the purpose of our mission,” Alvarez Gil said. “We thanked God for the many blessings of the day, and we helped each other to discover God’s presence actively working in us and through us to reach others.”

In addition to the evenings of reflection and prayer, the Jesuit group celebrated three beautiful Masses at our Lady of Our Mountains, led by Fr. Tri John Bosco Ngyuen. To close out the week, students embarked on a whitewater rafting trip to the Ocoee River, where events in the 1996 Summer Olympics took place.

During the 10 years since the first Jesuit service immersion mission group came to Jasper, a special relationship between the students and community has developed. Many of the underclassmen who participated this summer are enthusiastic about coming to Jasper again next year and renewing the tradition.

“I would encourage those students who are thinking about the Jasper mission trip for next year to say ‘Yes’ to God’s call to serve,” Alvarez Gil said. “You do not need to feel that you are prepared or that you deserve it, you only need to trust, come with an open heart, and let God surprise you.”

Listed below are the students and chaperones who served Jasper this summer. See photos below!

Students: Ivan Borowiec ’24, Sergio Carrion ’24, Adam Congel ’24, Brady Cronin ’24, Zach Dorton ’24, Ethan Gillett ’24, Harry Hanes ’24, Sebastian Johnson ’24, Kevin Korm ’24, Johnny LeBron ’24, Kyle Matheny ’24, Chad Nickerson ’24, Lucca Rodrigues ’24, Nick Adrian ’25, Alejandro Avila ’25, Ethan Bauer ’25, Garrett Boyes ’25, Julian Melia ’25, Nicky Montante ’25, Ronak Pestana ’25, Lorenzo Picca ’25, Luka Picca ’25, Jack Rozance ’25, Ben Smith ’25, and Jensen Whittlesey ’25.

Chaperones: Erick Alvarez Gil, Dan Noyes, Collin Rivera.