“Le Moyne has challenged me to think about the idea of men and women for other and to figure out what that means for me.”
For Ella DiGiovanni ‘18, serving others is grounded in building community—at home and abroad.
Ella values working with people. In high school, she went to El Salvador on two service trips, where she realized traveling, meeting different people, and gaining a global perspective appealed to her. Ella chose to continue developing those passions through a Jesuit education. Initially, she gravitated toward sociology for its focus on people and how we build relationships. Three years of hard work later, Ella is a senior about to graduate with a double major in sociology and peace and global studies with Integral Honors distinction, the highest degree conferred by Le Moyne.
Ella strives to do more than just to thrive in the classroom. Because of her passionate dedication to building communities, she was invited to participate in the Snow-Le Moyne Honors Global Internship. This program provides Integral Honors students the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of social justice through working abroad in El Salvador. This opportunity is made possible through the John Ben Snow Foundation and is hosted by Foundation Cristosal, an organization devoted to advancing human rights in Central America. By promoting legal advocacy, community development, and global education, Cristosal helps people become active agents in their own community’s growth.
Ella spent the month of July interning in Cristosal’s Community Development Office. As an intern, she facilitated the creation of a bilingual children’s picture book called Tell Me More, Por Favor. Children from San Salvador, El Salvador and Tarrytown, NY contributed to the book. In response to a series of questions about their communities, the children drew pictures to show how they feel about their home. In El Salvador, she participated in workshops that helped children generate their ideas and get them down on the page. Once these workshop were complete, Ella collected their creations, documented them, and packaged them to be sent to Tarrytown, where the other half of the story can be told. When the book is published, its pages will illustrate the diverse aspects of these children’s lives, highlighting the similarities and celebrating the differences between two communities thousands of miles apart.
The children were asked: “What do you like about your community?”
Almost all of their drawings included the soccer field their parents and community leaders fought to have put in. For Ella, this shows how human rights work goes beyond financial support. “They feel a sense of pride when it comes to the good things that happen in their community because they were the ones that did it….They love where they live just like we do.”
The children were also asked: “What do you want to be when you grew up?”
Their responses ranged from doctors to lawyers to accountants—all careers that Ella believes show “these kids have big dreams.” While these kids are excited by the possibilities of their futures, their whole community is fueled by their desire to build a better community for these children and generations to come.
What she learned:
Ella believes that working abroad dispels the common misconception that Latin American countries share a homogeneous culture. From her first-hand experience, she has learned this could not be further from the truth: “Every country uses Spanish a bit differently. Every country has their own unique history and cultural traditions. As North Americans, we have a responsibility to change the way we think about our neighbors, especially considering our political climate today. Internships like these play a huge role in teaching us there’s a different way to form connections and relationships with people of other cultures.”
Like the children Ella worked with, she is excited by her plans for the future too. After graduation, Ella hopes to tackle issues of economic development for impoverished communities in Central New York. She feels it’s just as important to gain a domestic perspective as well as a global perspective. While her concentration is in Central and South American studies, she’s ready to travel and connect with people around the world.
As Ella begins to reflects on the community and relationships she’s built over the last four years, she is grateful that Le Moyne’s Integral Honors Program provided her with opportunities to meaningfully pursue her passions:
“Le Moyne, the Integral Honors program especially, pushes to do more—to be more than just students but take what we’ve learned from the classroom, take what we’re passionate about, and apply it to a job or some type of work that benefits others.”
Story by Emma Discenza '20. Emma is interning in the Office of Communications this semester.