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Meet the Team
Kevin Yonkers-Talz, M.Ed., M.S.
Co-Director, Casa de la Solidaridad
Kevin is immensely proud of his four daughters–Sophia (12), Grace (10), Hannah (7), and Emma (2) and absolutely loves being a father. He is grateful for his work, which allows him to integrate working with college students and with people living in poverty. Kevin's academic interests lie in college student development theory and theology. He studied economics and psychology at Fairfield University and received his M.S. in college student personnel services from Miami University. He then studied at Boston College (M.Ed.) and is currently finishing a doctoral degree in international and multicultural education from the University of San Francisco.
Trena Yonkers-Talz, M.Ed., M.S.
Co-Director, Casa de la Solidaridad
Trena loves how working with the Casa program enables her to connect her vocations as a mom and as an educator. She loves being mom to her four daughters (Sophia, Grace, Hannah, and Emma). With the Casa program, she most enjoys spending time in the praxis site communities with the students. In both of her jobs, she is constantly learning about life and love and being reminded how alive God is in our world. Her academic interests lie in college student development theory and liberation/feminist theology. She studied accounting as an undergrad at Grand Valley State University and received her M.S. in college student personnel services from Miami University and an M.Ed. in religious education from Boston College. She also enjoys running, baking cookies, and exploring Central America with her family. Trena also has a strong connection to her roots in Hastings, Michigan, where she grew up on a goat, sheep, and asparagus farm. Trena and Kevin worked with Jesuit Volunteers: International in Belize, Central America for two years prior to their work in El Salvador. They are the co-founders of the Casa de la Solidaridad which began in 1999.
Community Coordinator, Casa Romero
Born first in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Michelle is overjoyed to be able to return to work as a Community Coordinator for the Casa in El Salvador. She is blessed to have the support of her parents, Marlene and Chris who live just outside of Philadelphia, and twin brother Christopher who lives in New Haven, Connecticut. A recent graduate of Loyola University Maryland in May of 2012, Michelle studied Spanish and Secondary Education. She experiences moments of rebirth in front of the classroom, as a constant student of life, and through reading, dancing and having good conversations. She also enjoys swimming, the beach and large cups of coffee. One of the blessings in her life is to be a part of the Casa’s model of education, and while it still undecided as to how it will look, she is sure that her future will consist of educating herself and others. For now Michelle will be learning, sharing and walking with Salvadorans, the Casa staff and the Casa students.
Community Coordinator, Casa Silvia
Diana grew up in Santa Cruz California, the only child of two of the most incredible people to ever live so conveniently close to the beach. Graduating in 2011, Diana left Santa Clara University with a degree in English and two minors in Philosophy and International Studies. Diana graduated in three years so that she could spend a year traveling and having new experiences, one of them being living with people with disabilities in Orange County while working with an organization called L'Arche. This experience confirmed her desire to work with people with disabilities in the future and after her time in El Salvador she hopes to pursue a career in occupational therapy. In addition to loving art, country music, friends, family, and tea, Diana's claim to fame is being the first student to ever complete both Casa programs in El Salvador and the Philippines. As the Casa has been such a formative part of her college experience, Diana is excited to be able to come back and help create that experience for others and see what surprises this year has to offer.
Lidia, Francisca, Lupita, Zarita, and Rosa
Lidia, Francisca, Lupita, Zarita, and Rosa comprise one of the most important teams on staff. They serve the Casa students in a variety of ways: as support people, as educators about the lives of average Salvadorans, and as cooks. Lidia has worked as a cook with the Jesuits for over 17 years. Elba Ramos, the housekeeper who was murdered with the Jesuits, taught her how to cook. Each semester, students reflect on the immense importance that these wise women have on their experience. We are grateful they are on staff.
Coordinator for Communications
Originally from San Salvador, Clara graduated from the University of Central America (UCA) in October 2006 with a major in communications. She worked as a journalist for La Prensa Gráfica three years in the area of public health. Clara finished her master's degree from the Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea in Spain during 2009. Now she works with the Casa program but also is writing economics reports from Central America for a Colombian magazine. Clara loves coffee! But she also enjoys writing, reading, traveling (especially with friends), and spending time with her family.
Romero Scholarship Student Program
The Romero Program is a Salvadoran sister program of the Casa de la Solidaridad. It began in August 2004 as a small group of scholarship students who lived with the Casa students, and since has grown to support more than 25 Salvadoran university students. Griselda and Julio were some of the first Salvadoran students who began the Romero Program, and after much experience with the Casa, they are now working full time as co-coordinators of the Romero Program.
Co-coordinator, Romero Program
Griselda has worked with the Romero Program since 2004. She graduated with a major in business administration from the University of Central America and studied for one semester at Santa Clara University in an exchange program. Gris is originally from Mariona, a town near San Salvador. She loves spending time with her family, especially her husband, Nelson, and her one-year-old son, Davisito.
Co-coordinator, Romero Program
Julio has worked with the Romero Program since 2004. He graduated from the University of Central America with a major in accounting. He is originally from Los Sitios, Jayaque in La Libertad. He loves telling jokes, dancing, and peaches. He also enjoys spending time with his family, especially his young nieces and nephews.