“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.” – Desmond Tutu
As a young boy, Evan Piel was immediately impressed by the brotherhood of the young men he witnessed at Christopher Columbus High School (CCHS). Every morning on his drive to elementary school, Evan would notice the CCHS boys walking to school dressed in their blue, button-down shirts and ties. He began to dream of the day that he would join them.
When the time came to enroll at CCHS, Tiany Martinez, Evan’s mother, hoped that she would be able to send him to his dream school but knew she couldn’t afford the tuition. Tiany applied for financial aid and scholarships but still, it wasn’t enough.
With the payment deadline quickly approaching, she continued moving forward in faith, hoping her prayers would be answered. Tiany shared her concerns with a friend and the conversation led her to the Ari J. Arteaga Foundation Inc.
She was put in contact with Ysha Arteaga and after explaining her situation, Ysha assured Tiany that they would be able to assist her as part of their mission to provide scholarships for qualified students seeking a Christian education.
Right before the payment deadline, Tiany checked online to see how much she owed in tuition. She was astonished by what she found. Her entire bill had been paid.
To this day, Tiany is still overwhelmed with emotion when she remembers that moment. “We’re eternally grateful to Ysha and to the Foundation,” said Tiany. “She’s definitely bringing light into other people’s lives.”
Tiany’s sincere gratitude flowed through her tears as she spoke about the Arteaga family, “I’m so impressed by the fact that they are so strong and that this is how they’ve chosen to remember their son and his legacy. He will forever be remembered and we’re just extremely grateful.”
Evan smiled as he remembered the day he officially began CCHS. “I was really excited because I was going to go to my dream high school and would get to play football there, said Evan. “I was able to build friendships with so many people and be part of the brotherhood.”
Evan has finished his first year and is happy to report that CCHS has become a second family to him. Tiany laughed as she confessed that Evan is constantly wearing his CCHS gear.
Tiany also spoke about the beauty of the brotherhood she has witnessed during Evan’s first year at CCHS, saying, “I’ve actually seen him grow into that [brotherhood] and he’s turning into an amazing young man.”
Although Evan has been overjoyed to be at CCHS, he faces many difficulties due to several preexisting health conditions. During his freshman year, Evan was hospitalized four times.
With the stress of health issues and missing school days, Tiany said she was surprised and grateful when she received calls of concern from his teachers. “It showed to me as a parent, and as an educator myself, that these teachers really do care about these students,” said Tiany.
Evan serves with the BE THE LIGHT Club at CCHS as an opportunity to share his own light. “It’s very heartfelt, the meaning of what he [Ari] stood for and it’s just amazing to be a part of that because of him,” said Evan.
Evan explained that although he never had the chance to meet Ysha’s son, Ari, his spirit is still very much present. “It’s like everyone knows about Ari and everyone’s still connected to him and it’s like he’s still here with us in our hearts,” said Evan quietly. “We know he’s watching over us.”