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Celeste’s Story Building Bridges Through Education

 

Her Story


The Manos de Dios Ministry began more than 20 years ago when a group of Episcopal churches and members in our Dioceses sought to share the joy and love of Christ with the people of Honduras. They did this to open people’s eyes to the Kingdom of God, in Honduras as well as their own country of origin. What started as an answer to Christ’s “Great Commission”, has since been cultivated into a multi-faceted ministry that transforms communities by creating opportunities in education, outreach, and spiritual growth. Through their mission work, Manos de Dios now sustains these opportunities with scholarships and is committed to building bridges through ministry that connect God’s people to each other by closing the gaps that exist between them in Honduras and here in the United States. The bridges we build help bring dreams to life for the students we serve, one of which has been able to overcome the odds and successfully pursue an education in Honduras and continue her education at a graduate level in the United States. This student’s name is Celeste Mejia.


Celeste Mejia is one of the many students that the Manos de Dios missionaries have been faithfully committed to serving, having provided the resources for her education since the 7th grade. Celeste has always been an earnest student, developing excellent study habits under the guidance of her mom. The values instilled by her mother and her own academic instincts, as well as the hands of God have allowed her to push forward despite her circumstances. Celeste is currently studying at Louisiana State University (LSU), pursuing her dreams of earning a master’s degree. She earned a full scholarship to study a two-year master’s degree in Entomology, including a full-time position as a research assistant in a lab.


But how did this all start? Having graduated from her high school with honors with the support of her mother and the Manos de Dios Scholarship Program, Celeste wanted to study at Zamorano University next. Her mother helped her look for additional scholarships, but to no avail. Celeste was disappointed, as this had been her dream school for a long time, but she was not defeated. Celeste found and pursued an opportunity to study agronomy at Universidad Nacional de Agricultura (UNAG), in Catacamas, though this did offer its own set of challenges as UNAG was very far from home. Celeste had to live away from her family, and college housing was a difficult situation. Celeste mentions that she lived with 10 other students and had to wake up as early as 4 or 5 AM to catch the bus for her morning classes. While at school, she had to deal with demanding classes and strict professors. She pressed forward against the odds until finally in 2020, she was able to earn her degree in Agronomy Engineering at UNAG.


Having graduated from university and earning her degree allowed Celeste to pursue opportunities she could not have ever dreamed for herself, as shortly after graduating from UNAG she found herself interning abroad at the University of Granada in Spain. This internship opportunity sparked her desire to continue her education and pursue a master’s degree. Once again, Celeste took a jump into the unknown, and with the help of her friend, found a professor at LSU who was willing to help her with an internship.

Celeste pulled through with her work ethic and commitment, despite having what she considers sub-par English. The professor was so impressed with Celeste’s work that he offered her the opportunity for a full ride scholarship to study a master’s degree with the condition that she passed the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam. She tried, again and again to pass the TOEFL, but found herself needing a little extra help. Thankfully, her mother had taught her so many years ago that asking for help does not take away from her independence. The Manos Scholarship Program was able to provide resources for Celeste to ace her exam, and she was able to earn the qualifying grade. However, as time had passed during her attempts with her exam, she was given the news that there were no more research assistant spots at the university. It was during this time that her family, church, and community gathered in support and waited patiently alongside her until the doors finally opened. Celeste wrote to the head of the Entomology Department at LSU and obtained an interview. The time had come, she was finally accepted into the master’s degree in Entomology program at LSU starting in January 2024. She also earned a spot as a research assistant in one of the labs. She is finally earning her master’s degree, but in a way that she could have never dreamed of before.


Looking back, Celeste is grateful for all the support as well as the hardships she experienced, as they opened her eyes to the support she had and allowed her to grow in humility and recognize the importance of hard work. Of her time at the university of UNAG in Catacamas, she mentions that she learned to be tolerant and understanding of other people. Her inability to get admitted to her first school of choice, Zamorano University, is now seen by her as a situation that strengthened her faith. She says that looking back. “God’s timing and planning are perfect. Had I made it to Zamorano University, maybe things wouldn’t have turned out this way. Doors have been opened for me that opened my eyes to see that there is a world of opportunities out there, not just Zamorano University”.


Many years ago, when Celeste was only 11 years old, she was all by herself at home when she received the good news that she had earned the Manos de Dios Scholarship. Her mother was across the street when her daughter ran to embrace her, celebrating the opportunity to pursue the beginning of her studies. Throughout the years, there have been many hands that have helped guide Celeste along the way. From her mother to the Manos de Dios Church community, hands have come together to build bridges that connected her to opportunities she never knew could have existed. Now, she has overcome the odds and crossed the bridge that so many dream of doing and is working hard to earn her master’s degree. Celeste has captured her dream, and her future is in her hands


 




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