Jessenia Pineda from Team Peru

 Margarita Muniz Academy

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You wouldn’t expect it by looking at her, but Jessenia Pineda, a junior at the Margarita Muniz Academy in Jamaica Plain, is a powerhouse.  She gets it from her mom, a busy woman raising four children, who still finds time to check that homework is done every evening after a long day of work.  Jessenia grew up playing a parental role too.  It isn’t easy, but Jessenia finds time to act as the family translator and a tutor to her three younger siblings.  With these additional responsibilities, she is very connected to her family, especially her mom.  Her childhood with a strict, traditional Salvadorian mother was both challenging and rewarding.  Jessenia first learned the power of debate while arguing with her mother about the traditional Latino concept of the role of women.  She learned balance while finishing her rigorous coursework and taking care of her siblings.  She learned how to be a mature, young adult by listening to and learning from her mother while working through disagreements.


Jessenia is confident, caring, and serious about the responsibility of being the first in her family to graduate high school and go away to college.  Her excitement for the future is tangible and contagious, and she is looking forward to many opportunities to travel, especially to Peru.  Alongside her classmates Jessenia navigated through the challenges of organizing and leading successful fundraising events in preparation for their service during April Break.  Her face lights up when describing their service project of helping families to harvest fava beans and potatoes in the Peruvian countryside. She’s a “country girl” at heart and heard many fond memories of her family picking coffee beans in the mountains of El Salvador.


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Now that Team Peru has returned from their trip,  Jessenia has many stories of her own regarding the clean air of the Peruvian country side that so reminded her of stories her mother would tell of farming in El Salvador.  As the group befriended the hard-working farmers and harvested potatoes all day in the field, they gained a new-found appreciation for the simplicity of life.  Jessenia was impressed by the humility and perseverance of the farmers.

During the trip, the team grew close to the indigenous people.  Both groups were curious about each other, asking questions about their schools and communities.  Jessenia and her teammates learned about the generosity of spirit among the farmers, and the locals were impressed that the Quest students had fundraised to travel and do community service.

Jessenia has more confidence now after learning to communicate with people of a different culture.  The Quest experience has made her more open to people, willing to bond with her teammates and to try new things.  Living among the indigenous people, she was reminded not to judge people by the way they look, to treat everyone with respect and dignity and to appreciate the life she has in Boston.