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New York to Brownsville The Growing Impact of Iona College

Dear Friend, Here is what we know - strategic partnerships can increase the impact of any individual or organization. Choosing to concentrate your energy and resources can help avoid the trap of just scratching the surface of an issue like poverty and education. I'm positive that if you ask any non-profit or mission-driven organization like Guadalupe Regional Middle School you will hear that it all helps, because it does. Every donation, no matter how small; every hour of service, even if it is dusting shelves or filing paperwork, takes stress off staff members that stretch every dime and minute. So when others make us a priority, they move their efforts from supporting change to being the change. In truth, we need both. In this newsletter, you will read about one college who is quietly making change in our students' lives from across the country. God be with you, Michael Motyl President


When the Congregation of Christian Brothers, one of 3 religious sponsoring congregations of Guadalupe Regional Middle School (GRMS), gathered at their annual meeting for heads of schools, the topic of missions and mission schools came up. Congregation high schools across the country teaching thousands of students the charism of Blessed Edmund Rice were looking for opportunities to connect their service learning programs to experiential immersion trips.

"Leaders within the congregation pushed us forward," said Michael Motyl, GRMS President. "I was invited to speak to the other school leaders about our school's unique mission, the border, and how they could play a role in what the Christian Brothers were already doing in deep south Texas."

What came out of that meeting was incredible, an outpouring from many Christian Brothers institutions. In 2012, Illiana Banda '08 became the first GRMS graduate to enroll at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, with the help of a scholarship aimed at recruiting alumni from congregation schools.

"Iona extended this offer to our grads who also attend Saint Joseph Academy in Brownsville for high school," said Motyl. "Iona is essentially making it possible for our kids to extend their Catholic education. What the data tells us is that when our kids go away to college, especially on scholarship, they are more likely to finish college on time."

Since then, GRMS has had 2 more earn degrees, Ashley Hernandez '09 and Iliana's brother Alejandro '10. Cendy Saldaña '13 is a rising junior.

Alejandro Banda led 2 service trips of Iona students to Brownsville to learn about immigration, other border issues, and volunteer at GRMS and other service sites.

"It felt full-circle," said Motyl. "Alejandro helped lead this group of young people, mostly from the East Coast, to his home. His mother cooked traditional Mexican meals for them and they were here to strengthen the school that helped him onto this path."

Banda earned his degree in 2018 and is now working at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas. This August, we add Eliut Motyl '15 to the growing list of Gaels. Motyl was accepted to several top Texas schools, including Texas A&M, but fell in love with Iona upon visiting.

"It felt small like Guadalupe and Saint Joe," said Eliut Motyl.

If the last name looks familiar, there is a reason for that. Eliut was adopted by the Motyl/Pilon family as a 7th grader at Guadalupe after his biological family was broken up and his mother deported. With his mother's blessing, the adoption became official in 2017.

"It didn't give us time to save up for college," said Michael Motyl. "But God provides. Between merit scholarships and this path already established for GRMS kids, Eliut will be the 5th to attend Iona beginning this fall."

Also this fall, GRMS will be welcoming Abby Rupillo, a recent graduate of Iona College, into our community for the 2019-2020 school year as part of the Congregation of Christian Brothers Province Volunteer Program. Rupillo will reside with the Christian Brothers Comunidad Juan Diego in Brownsville, TX and she will minister both at Guadalupe Regional Middle School and in the local Brownsville community. We thank Brother Tim Smyth, our Mission Frère, Young Adult Ministry Coordinator, and the Comunidad Juan Diego Community for making this possible.

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