Though the words of Blessed Edmund Rice echo in the Mission Statement, on school posters and in the morning prayer, Mr. William Beasley, a religious studies teacher, saw an opportunity for the words of this prolific man to be applied more directly to his students.
In 2002, Mr. Beasley formed, with a small group of students who shared his vision, The Edmund Rice Society. The mission of this group is to walk in the footsteps of Edmund Rice. Four centuries ago, Edmund lived in Ireland. He grew up in a wealthy family, wanting for nothing, however he learned very early that not all had the comforts that he experienced. A commitment to charity inspired by his mother, combined with a devotion to and adulation for the work that Jesus performed, Edmund saw a great need among the poorest people in his community. Without regard for his own comforts or well-being, Edmund applied his powerful sense of empathy and his unwavering devotion to a life spent educating, feeding, clothing, and sheltering a population that was otherwise overlooked in his time.
For seven years, the Edmund Rice Society at Palma High School has drawn inspiration from the life and works of Blessed Edmund Rice. There is a need in our immediate community, as well as in the rest of the world that is far too easy to ignore. However, these young men have taken on the gratifying burden of awareness and have committed themselves, just like Edmund Rice, to being of service to those in the community who do not enjoy the comforts and advantages that these boys do. Locally, The Edmund Rice Society participates in tutoring 1st through 8th graders at the Life After School Program in East Salinas, they wrap blankets for the homeless, participate in boxing beans and rice for Dorothy’s Soup Kitchen, donate goods and services to families in need in the Pajaro Valley through La Casa de la Cultura, and run a school-wide food drive in November and December. However, one of the projects that is most exciting and life-changing for these young men is an annual trip to Mexico to build a home for a family in need.
This trip takes place every year over Spring Break. For one week these young men give of their time, energy, and talents in order to make a profound and lasting difference in the life of one family. The Edmund Rice Society works with parishes in Mexico to identify and choose a family who is desperately in need of adequate shelter. The young men that go on this trip are aware of the privilege it is to serve another individual in this way, and the honor does not come free. Each young man must pay his own way, about $500 for transportation, food, lodging, and supplies, however this cost can be greatly reduced by volunteering at different fundraisers the Edmund Rice Society is involved in, such as selling poinsettias at Christmas, orchids at Easter, and year-long efforts such as selling tamales and other snacks to their peers and the extended Palma Family. Volunteers are also encouraged to share with their family and friends what they will be doing over Spring Break, and to ask for support from their individual communities.
For one week in April, Monday through Saturday, members of the Edmund Rice Society build a home from the foundation up. It is not a vacation, but a week spent learning to work as a team, to cope with frustration, discomfort and exhaustion, to learn what life could be like for them if only a few circumstances were altered. It is a valuable and more often than not, life-changing experience for the boys and chaperones alike. At the end, the elation and gratitude of the family, erases the sweat and the muscle aches, the splinters and the utter weariness. What is left when the boys hand over the keys to a brand new home is the memory of the teamwork, the meals shared, the moments of celebration, the growth that happens by taking on this challenge. In the words of Edmund Rice, they learn that the merit and value of serving a neighbor is worth more than silver and gold.