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Founders of Santa Clara University’s Social Justice Study Abroad Program to Receive Legacy of the Martyrs Award

BY ISN STAFFOctober 5, 2015

Kevin and Trena Yonkers-Talz to be Honored for Their Work with Casa de la Solidaridad in El Salvador 

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Kevin and Trena Yonkers-Talz, co-founders and co-directors of the El Salvador-based Casa de La Solidaridad study abroad program of Santa Clara University, will receive the “Legacy of the Martyrs” award from the Ignatian Solidarity Network on October 7 for their longstanding commitment to educating students about social justice issues in Central America.

Trena and Kevin co-founded Casa de la Solidaridad (CASA) in 1999 to honor the lives of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter, all of whom were brutally murdered at the Jesuit-run Central American University (UCA) in San Salvador, El Salvador in 1989.

The CASA model invites students to live and study in El Salvador while being immersed in the social realities of the poor. The semester-long experience integrates rigorous study at the UCA with simple living in community and spiritual reflection in the Ignatian tradition. Over its 16 years, the program has been recognized as an effective and innovative model of education within the Jesuit tradition.

Trena and Kevin are parents and educators with significant experience working with students in Central America. They each hold graduate degrees in college student development from Miami University and in religious education from Boston College. Prior to living in El Salvador, they volunteered for two years with Jesuit Volunteers: International in Belize, Central America. They have four daughters.

In 2014, ISN established the Legacy of the Martyrs Awards to mark the 25th anniversary of the Jesuits’ deaths. In April, the award was given to the Kino Border Initiative, a bi-national organization that works in the area of migration and is located in Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Last year’s inaugural honorees included Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-2) and two Jesuit-sponsored NGOs in Honduras, Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación and Radio Progreso.

“The work of the Trena and Kevin honors the faithful witness of the Jesuit martyrs, inspiring us all to live more just and compassionate lives,” said ISN executive director Christopher Kerr. “We are excited to recognize their 15 years of commitment to the people of El Salvador and Jesuit education.”

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