By Jerry Duggan
As service coordinator, a math teacher and an assistant soccer coach at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory School of Houston, Reynold D’Souza is invested in forming the mind, body and soul of his students.
He is willing to juggle so many responsibilities within the school community because of the great joy Jesuit schools have brought him from an early age.
“The Jesuit way of doing things – forming contemplatives in action and educating the whole person – has always resonated with me,” he said. “That is what I aim to do at Strake Jesuit.”
Growing up in India, D’Souza attended a Jesuit school starting in first grade, as did all his brothers. He continued at Jesuit schools through his undergraduate years. This provided him with a strong academic and spiritual foundation.
“Part of the reason I am such a believer in education, specifically the holistic, Jesuit education is because I experienced it myself,” he explained.
After coming to the U.S. to pursue a master’s degree in mathematics at Michigan Technological University, D’Souza got a job teaching math at a Catholic high school while also playing club soccer in the Houston Men’s league in the evenings, which allowed him to “relive his college days” from back in India.
In time, an opening came at Strake Jesuit, and D’Souza, remembering fondly his own experience with Jesuit education, jumped at the opportunity.
“I knew this was going to be a tremendous place to work, and I still feel that way 16 years in,” he said.
Initially hired as a math teacher, D’Souza has seen his duties grow to include coordinating the school’s service program and serving as an assistant soccer coach.
A decade ago, school leadership approached D’Souza asking him to consider leading the school’s service program. Of course, D’Souza knew how important service was to a Jesuit educational institution, but he had little idea what he was getting into.
“There was a lot of work at the beginning just getting our program up and running,” he said.
Today, he maintains contacts with organizations from across the Houston metropolitan area, ensuring that students have a wealth of opportunities.
Starting in 2010, the service program, initially only a senior program, added a service requirement for each grade level. Since 2013, it has been a four-year program. “Historically, our freshmen have served the elderly, sophomores have engaged in tutoring/mentoring kids in underprivileged schools, juniors in serving religious organizations and our seniors with the most vulnerable in society,” he elaborated.
In light on the ongoing pandemic, these “rules” have ceased to exist – students at any grade level may now serve at any school-approved location.
Perhaps D’Souza’s most important responsibility is coordinating the school’s senior project, a hallmark of many Jesuit high school experiences.
To fulfill this requirement, many students take advantage of summer opportunities, spending a week or longer at organizations like the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Camp Blessing, Camp Champions or a pre-approved site of their choice.
Students also understand the need for reflection that follows a completed senior project.
“Service is great, but without opportunities to reflect on it and grow from it, we are selling ourselves short,” he said.
In past years, D’Souza has also coordinated international service trips to countries such as Belize, Dominican Republic, Peru, Tanzania and Vietnam. While these trips have been halted due to the pandemic amid concerns about low vaccination rates in those countries, one of D’Souza’s hopes is to make those immersion trips available at a local or national level this summer.
“Our immersion trips are formative for our students,” he said. “Safety is a priority, of course, but we want to keep these trips going, even if they are not done internationally for the foreseeable future.”
In addition to all of this, D’Souza still teaches mathematics and continues to coach soccer. He is busy, but not bogged down, by all of these responsibilities, because he knows that each serves a purpose in the development of young men.
“Jesuit education is about being intellectually competent and physically fit, but also spiritual and committed to justice,” he said. “I also want to do my part to help in developing the whole student – mind, body and soul.”