My years as a JV in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania shaped much of my personal, professional, and academic life thereafter. The person I have become, the career path I have followed, and the graduate studies I pursued are all direct results of the ways in which my mind, heart, and soul were formed as a JV.
I had much to learn as a brand-new teacher at Loyola High School and in a culture not my own; I was challenged in many ways to grow past what I thought I already knew. The work taught me authentic humility, a trait I continue to try and bring into my current role as a high school president, albeit not always successfully.
I was recently charged with the task of getting Cristo Rey Miami High School open for students for 2020. The 35 Cristo Rey schools in urban areas across the U.S. currently serve over 12,000 low-income students. Next year, Cristo Rey Miami will join in this mission of providing a Catholic, college-prep education integrated with a corporate work-study experience for students. Having been at Cristo Rey San José Jesuit the past five years as Dean and Asst. Principal, and having conducted my doctoral research on Cristo Rey schools, I have found our schools to be filled with amazing students, dedicated staff, and the undeniable presence of God. I look forward to Cristo Rey Miami being a beacon of God's love and hope, just as I found during my time in Tanzania.
My Tanzanian community showed me what faith, compassion, and mutuality could look like. In the 12 years since I was a JV, I have returned to Tanzania almost every summer. We also just hosted an old Tanzanian colleague and friend in our home, here in Miami two weeks ago.
Being a JV is not a fleeting experience for a year or two. It's a lifetime commitment to becoming more deeply the people God calls us to be, as best as we can. I am forever grateful for JVC, for the experiences I've had, for the people I encountered, and for the many signs of God's love and presence throughout it all.
Billy Bludgus (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) Ed.D. serves as president, of Cristo Rey Miami High School which is set to open in 2020. He is also the founder of a small non-profit foundation which supports education and youth services in Tanzania, East Africa.