“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

My grandfather cut through the tension of a family political discussion: “If, with all our flaws, God loves us infinitely, who are we to deny each other love?” Ecuador, the place I call home, was treading polarized waters that pitted loved ones against each other in the intractable hatred of politics.

Old photographs with a black eye and the piece of shrapnel lodged in his leg immortalized his past in political activism. Perhaps that was why Grandpa never grew tired of repeating what our Catholic faith teaches: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Grandpa passed away on a winter morning in 2012. I eventually left Ecuador, convinced I would never return, as the shadows of hatred and discord at home loomed larger each day.

With time, however, emptiness filled me. It was then that I realized that purpose could not be manufactured; it must be found within, and my heart was rooted in my home country. I will dedicate my life to helping weave together the social fabric of Ecuador through education. I will contribute to enabling learning that forges Ecuadorians with love for our country, our fellow citizens, and our shared future.

— Carlos Emilio Larreategui