This month marks 15 years since our beloved Jess started working with CoEd! She serves as our Liaison to Rotary International and plays a key role in the Guatemala Literacy Project (GLP). The GLP is our collaboration with Rotarians and Rotary clubs around the world, who are also dedicated to improving education for underserved students in Guatemala. It was established in 1997, less than a year after CoEd’s founding, and has exponentially increased the good that we have been able to do together for Guatemalan students.
Name: Jessica Stieritz
Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
Education: BA, English, Xavier University
Hobbies and interests: my three kids, social justice, editing
Jess’ dedication to justice for underserved students in Guatemala is evident in all of her hard work here at CoEd, and we are so thankful to have her as part of the team! We sat down to ask Jess a few questions about her experiences and learned some fun facts about her in the process.
Q: Are you a cake person or a pie person?
A: Pie. I mean, I like them both, but my gut response was pie. Not all pie, though. My favorite pies are cherry and lemon-merengue.
Q: What is your best little-known talent?
A: I can cross my eyes like you wouldn’t believe. I don’t bust it out very often, though, because I’ve heard it can creep people out a little bit.
Q: What inspired you to work for CoEd?
A: I went to El Salvador twice in college, and that’s really where I fell in love with Latin America. When CoEd was looking to add their third person in the office, I interviewed, and it was clearly a perfect fit.
Now, as a mother, when I go to Guatemala and see the children we serve, I think about my own children. It makes me realize that it’s the fortune of where we get to be born that dictates our lives. For me, this concept is just not right. I’ve always been concerned about fairness. That’s what got me interested in activism: that the world is a very unfair place and I want to do something about it.
Q: You’re one of the first in your family to graduate from college. How do you feel about the connection between your story and the stories of the students we serve?
A: It astounds me to think that my own grandfather was illiterate. My paternal grandmother attained two years of high school, my maternal grandmother completed 8th grade, and my maternal grandfather only 3rd grade. It was SO important to my parents that my brother and I go to college, and we all worked and sacrificed (myself included) to make that happen. There are parallels to the families we serve in Guatemala—and yet I hesitate to draw that comparison because my parents did not grow up in abject poverty like the kids in our programs. Again, because of their place of birth, they had opportunities to make decent, middle-class lives for themselves. We at CoEd just want to open the doors for the kids in our programs to find those same opportunities.
Q: What are your main responsibilities as Liaison to Rotary International?
A: I lead the Rotary Team here at CoEd, managing our partnerships with Rotary clubs and assisting with the Global Grants bestowed upon the GLP by The Rotary Foundation. Over 125 Rotary clubs from around the world contribute to this grant, so it requires a dedicated staff person to coordinate them all!
Q: What are your favorite parts of your job?
A: It’s so awesome to work with such great Rotarians and have such long-term relationships with them. For me, it’s not just a business relationship; it’s a friendship that has formed. I also love our positive workplace, because we are so fortunate to be at an organization that values healthy conflict resolution, and finds ways for people to grow.
Q: This year you celebrated your 15-year anniversary at CoEd. How have you seen CoEd change (or stay the same) over the past 15 years?
A: I remember how weird and scary it was to add new members to the team at first. It used to be just me, Joe, and Anne Cunningham. Looking at where we are now, I see the value of how many people we have, especially when we’re in this stage of growing. Fall Fiesta has changed so much over the years, too. It has progressed and grown to become a super classy event!
Q: Anything else you want readers to know about CoEd?
A: What makes CoEd successful is the people. Every day, we show our donors that we are good people, doing good work, working for a valuable organization. It makes it easy for people to trust us with their money, knowing that it goes towards making a real difference in the world.
We are so thankful to have people like Jess and like YOU in the CoEd family! THANK YOU for your generous support.