In San Francisco's Tenderloin, Michelle Batista, who graduated in 2002, works at De Marillac Academy, a tuition-free school founded in 2001 by the Christian Brothers and the Daughters of Charity next to St. Anthony's dining room. More than 70 percent of the students are Latino, and many come from worlds of hardship, stress and turmoil.
When Batista became the director of counseling and graduate support at the academy in 2005, there were 52 students in the middle school. Today there are 119 students in the middle school and 116 graduates, including 33 who are attending a two or four-year college.
"What amazed me is how resilient our students are," says Batista. "Living here in the Tenderloin, our students walk by people smoking crack or shooting up heroin."
Batista says the academy is trying to offer more than a run-of-the-mill education for its students in the fourth through eighth grades. "We are really working with students and their families to transform their lives," including supporting students after they graduate and go to high school, she says. "When we follow our students' progress in high school and college, the kids have a higher chance of success."
The value of education was impressed upon Batista during childhood by her parents, Frank and Irene Batista, who were very strict. Batista added that she has been influenced greatly by the words of Saint Miguel Febres Cordero: "I must engage in all works that I undertake with the spirit of love."
"With the people I work with," Batista says, "the spirit of love is evident with their work with the students, and the students feel that."
See other Women of Influence.
40 Years/One Night, a "Gaela" celebration recognizing the 40 Influential Women of Saint Mary's, will be held on Sat., Nov. 6 in the Soda Center. It begins with a cocktail reception, followed by dinner, a raffle and a silent auction. The keynote speaker will be Kristine Carlson, co-author of the Don't Sweat the Small Stuff series. Go to stmarys-ca.edu/womeninphil for tickets and more information.