Matthew Eisen Bachelor of Arts in international relations, 1995 | Social worker, youth counselor, community organizer and fund-raiser for the Nueva Generación XXI, San Salvador, El Salvador.
Changing Lives | Since 1997, Eisen has worked in one of the poorest sections of San Salvador, trying to help youth—and people of all ages—escape the deadly cycle of poverty, drug abuse and violence. “Salvadoran society is very divisive,” he says. “Youth are extremely affected by this. Unfortunately the gangs, not church groups nor government initiatives, have had the most success in recruiting and organizing youth. Gangs have created a level of violence that has only been fueled by misguided government and societal reactions.”
Fitting In | Eisen came to the University from a self-described sheltered, working-class childhood on Cincinnati’s west side. As a commuter, it took him awhile to feel part of campus life, but he soon found his niche and began to participate in peace and justice programs at the Dorothy Day House.
Taking Action | At Xavier, Eisen took a variety of causes to heart. He participated in shantytown to raise awareness of homeless issues, protested the war in then-Yugoslavia, supported a protest by the black student association, urged the University to recognize a gay and lesbian student group and became involved with the international coffee hour sponsored by the office of international student services.
Finding a Calling | Eisen first traveled to El Salvador in 1994 to monitor elections as part of a group led by Irene Hodgson, a professor of modern languages. The country was just two years removed from a bloody, 12-year civil war that claimed more than 75,000 lives. One year later, Eisen participated in the first service-learning semester in Nicaragua, detouring to El Salvador for the 15th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.
Heading South | Following graduation, Eisen spent a year working for the Mid-Atlantic Office of Amnesty International in Washington, D.C. But Central America was calling, and he decided to answer.
Playing a Role | In 2000, Eisen was invited by U.S. South Command of the U.S. military to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to participate as a human rights monitor in a United Nations peacekeeping training/role-playing exercise.
Living the Mission | “I believe the Jesuit principles and values affected me strongly,” he says. “I could have looked for a job with a local Cincinnati transnational company working in Europe, pursuing a career with a great salary. For the last seven years I have received a $500-a-month stipend. I still have $12,000 of student loans to pay off, yet I couldn’t be happier.”