Global and Local: St. Martin de Porres | St. Ignatius

St. Martin de Porres High School juniors team with sixth-graders to create bilingual storybooks for children in Honduras.

The storybook is a collection of more than 40 single-page stories — each written, illustrated and translated by a team of three students and conveying messages of hopefulness or overcoming adversity.

Over several days last winter and spring, St. Martin de Porres High School juniors teamed up with sixth-graders at Luis Muñoz Marin, a predominantly Hispanic public school in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood, to create bilingual storybooks that will be sent to a Honduran orphanage for HIV-positive children.

"I love kids, so I was really happy we were able to do this," says St. Martin de Porres' Damian Cowan. "I wish I could have gone [to Honduras] just to see them opening the books."

Cowan and a friend worked with a Muñoz Marin sixth-grader to create a story about a boy who loses his favorite pencil.

"It's about him doing all this crazy stuff to find this •magic' pencil," Damian explains.

Although 2012 was the third year for the project, it was the first time St. Martin de Porres students teamed with Hispanic students to work on the book. Esperanza, a local nonprofit group that promotes Hispanic educational achievement, facilitated the two schools working together and helped secure a grant from Baldwin-Wallace University for the printing costs.

St. Martin de Porres Spanish teacher Rebecca Levis, who helped coordinate the project, says the new collaboration allows the students to learn from each other.

"It connected not just sixth-graders and high school students, which in itself has quite a bit of impact on both sides," she says, "but it also connected the cultures."

St. Ignatius High School students take to the streets each weekend to serve the city's homeless.

Each Sunday night for the past 10 years, about two-dozen St. Ignatius High School students, accompanied by faculty and staff, pack up three school vans and head off on separate routes — East Side, West Side and Downtown.

They serve 70 to 90 of Cleveland's homeless each time out, sometimes delivering warm clothes, other times talking sports. Occasionally, they hold hands with the people they meet on the street and pray with them.

"It's gratifying to see the students reaching out with compassion and care and faith," says St. Ignatius theology teacher Jim Skerl, who co-founded the program.

Over the years, the school's St. Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry (named after the patron saint of the homeless) has seen thousands of students stepping forward to serve.

"We invite them to see the city with new eyes," says Skerl. "They begin to look at street corners — or under a bridge or exit ramp — and see somebody they know by name."

St. Ignatius senior Mike Mulach recalls being led beneath a highway overpass during one of his first nights out. "There was a guy living there," he says. "I'd gone past there hundreds of times, but I had no idea of his existence. It was really eye-opening."

It can be a humbling experience, but the students take pride in carrying on the school's ministry. Tom King, a senior who serves with his twin brother, Scott, says something remarkable happens when they approach an unlit spot in the night.

"We'll shout, 'St. Ignatius here! We have food! Is anybody home?' I think that's fascinating because St. Ignatius lived long ago and now his name is being shouted in the streets to those who need help."

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