On September 30, leaders and students from Esperanza Academy in Lawrence, MA visited the Church of Our Redeemer. Jadihel (Jadi) Taveras, Head of School, delivered the sermon during the 9:30 am service. Evoking the story of the prodigal son, Jadi spoke of his own path of growing up in Lawrence but leaving at a young age to attend preparatory school and later to travel the world, while his brother and other family members stayed behind. Jadi spoke about the complexity of leaving and returning to one’s home (he assumed the position of Esperanza’s Head on July 1), particularly when considering how an individual’s relationship to home evolves over time. He reflected, “The scripture of the prodigal son reminds me of forgiveness, but mostly of forgiving yourself. It’s important to practice the art of forgiving yourself, because when we do, we create more room to love deeply.”
Many of the Esperanza students, he said, were like him: from low-income, single-parent households, first-generation American, Black or Latinx, and struggling with the idea of Lawrence, a poor city, as their home. The goals of Esperanza, he continued, are to teach their students to be self-directed and ready to engage in the world, and to strongly affirm their cultural home, heritage, and identities. Jadi also described the recent gas explosions and fires in Lawrence and the surrounding areas, and the ways that the school and community had come together to heal and care for one another. “Our founders knew that our girls and their families would face systemic challenges,” he stated, “They knew times of crisis would come. That is why in the days and weeks ahead, we will hold unswervingly to our mission. With the support of our extended community bolstering us, with the love and prayers and donations that not only founded Esperanza but which sustain us today, we will uphold our mission of providing a transformational education for the students, and we will understand, in a new way, what it means to uphold the last sentence of our mission statement: to empower and prepare our girls to meet challenges with courage, integrity, and respect.”
Following the service, Jadi, Esperanza administrators Shelley Reese and Sarah Young, and two recent Esperanza graduates participated in Adult Forum, which was moderated by Mission Committee Chair Chris Needham. The students described their favorite classes (Algebra I, science, and art), how Esperanza challenged them to learn independence and responsibility, and how the school gave them opportunities for new endeavors such as leadership and community outreach. The leaders then described the structure and practices of Esperanza, including how students are supported for 10-hour school days for 11 months out of the year, and how Esperanza makes a 12-year commitment to each student, including high school placement guidance and support through college.They expressed gratitude to Redeemer for its continued support of Esperanza and invited members to get further involved through participation in the upcoming Harvest of Hope fundraising event, sponsoring a student ($1000-$6000/year), giving monthly donations, tutoring, or judging the science fair in the Spring.
Esperanza Academy is an all-girls, independent middle school in the Episcopal tradition welcoming Lawrence students of diverse faiths, races, and cultures. It is a tuition-free, privately funded school that provides its students with a rigorous academic program, as well as opportunities for athletics, music, clubs, leadership and public speaking, and a summer STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) program. To learn more, go to esperanzaacademy.org or speak to Chris Needham (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Mia Ong (email@example.com).