Except for four years when she was at college, Leanna Leatherbury has been part of Christel House Academy South in Indianapolis since she entered the school as a second grader. A 2015 graduate, she’s returned – as a teacher. “I’m not the student anymore,” she smiles. Now she’s known as Miss L. and Leanna feels the shared experience helps her connect with students. “I relate to the kids because I went to Christel House,” she says. Working with her students, Leanna sets strong standards to excel in her class. But she also brings understanding and empathy to the challenges and issues her students face. “It’s amazing to be able to work with kids, especially the kids that go to Christel House,” she says. “It’s just a great experience after being one of those kids,” she admits. Leanna is proud of her career choice and her success. “To see where I came from to where I am now…this was the best decision to teach here.”
Many children in India come from a background where there is not enough food, says Christel House India CEO Jaison C. Mathew. Christel House kids succeed because they receive nutritious food. You make it happen.
“One of the key elements of our model is the nutritional program,” he says. 54% of children in India are malnourished according to research from the United Nations. “Christel House serves breakfast, lunch and a healthy snack to 1,500 students at Christel House India in Bangalore and Atal Nagar. For Mathew, seeing Christel House India students grow, graduate and get good jobs is rewarding. “Breaking the cycle of poverty – that is what gives me satisfaction,” he says.
While there may be an age difference between Denise and Natalia H., these sisters are very close. Growing up, they learned to support and take care of each other. Denise is a first grader at Christel House Mexico (CHMX) and big sister Natalia is in seventh grade. Before coming to CHMX, the girls worked on street corners selling sweets to survive.
It wasn’t always like that. When they were very young, the girls lost their father in a tragic road accident. Living with their mother, the family struggled to get by. Enrolling at CHMX, Denise and Natalia are excelling in their classes. Their mother now has a job as a domestic worker. Inspired by her daughters, Mom is going to school on weekends to earn a high school diploma. For Denise and Natalia, Christel House Mexico offers security and a path to succeed.