Meet the Current Students

Spring 2014

Front Row (L-R): Amanda Mitchell (USF); James Caravallyo (USF); Lauren Lum (Regis); Liz Vestal (SLU); Karla Cabangon (Ateneo de Naga); Second Row: Meg O'Neill (BC); Alex Gaynor (BC); Abigail Amico (SLU); Olivia Holzum (SLU); Julia Michalski (USF); Steve Guray (Ateneo de Naga); Third Row: Sarah Stachnik (USF); Katherine Pantangco (USF); Beatriz Betito (Ateneo de Naga); Cecille De Castro (Ateneo de Naga); Teresa Cichello (Fordham); Roberto Martinez (BC)


Liz VestalLiz Vestal, Saint Louis University

 What’s up! I’m Liz, hailing from Des Moines, Iowa (Iowa is a lot better than you think, I promise). I’m a sophomore studying Social Work and Business at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri. My Praxis site is Tahanang Walang Hagdanan, or “House With No Stairs” in English. This is a place for persons with disabilities to find both a home and a job, and I am excited to be accompanying them throughout the semester!


Roberto Martinez

Roberto Martinez, Boston College

As a Junior at Boston College, I am a History and Theology double major. The Casa program in the Philippines gives me an opportunity to engage with many of the things I love: questions about theology, genuine interactions with all people, and of course, rich and diverse cultures! On my down time, I love playing all types of sports, but basketball by far is my favorite. I also enjoy outdoor adventures like hiking. Through all this, I also enjoy great conversations which seem to occur daily here in Casa!


Amanda Mitchell

Amanda Mitchell, University of San Francisco

Hello po, I am a junior at the University of San Francisco and am a Theology and Religious Studies major with minors in Psychology and Public Service.  I decided to say yes to Casa Bayanihan program because I knew it was going to be an experience that pushed me beyond my comfort level and allowed me to open myself up to life.  All I can say is that choosing to participate in this program was the best thing I have done during my undergraduate time. Lastly, I also had the unique opportunity to hold the position of the Casa program’s ACE, which is a fellowship that was developed in relationship with the Leo T. McCarthy Center at USF. To find out more about the ACE program please visit the McCarthy Center’s website.  If you are interested in the participating in the Casa program don’t over think it, just say yes to this amazing opportunity!

Teresa CichelloTeresa Cichello, Fordham University

Hi! I’m a junior at Fordham University studying Anthropology and French. I love my experience here in the Philippines so far. Casa Bayanihan has a really unique approach to study abroad that focuses on community living, experiential learning and a real world perspective. I can really consider it a home away from home, and know it is going to be an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.


Abbie Amico, Saint Louis UniversityAbbie Amico

Hi, I’m a sophomore at Saint Louis University studying economics and minoring in Theology studies and legal studies. I am originally from South Bend, IN (right outside of Chicago) and am very glad to be in 80 degree weather as opposed to the negative 30 degree weather I left behind. My time at Casa has been great so far and I can’t  believe I have only been here for two weeks. My Praxis site is Lingap and I can’t wait to learn more about the organization and the wonderful communities that surround it.


James CaravallyoJames Caravallyo, University of San Francisco

Hello, I am currently a junior attending the University of San Francisco, and I am majoring in Communications. I joined Casa Bayanihan because I wanted to experience a more authentic way of learning. This program is definitely not the traditional study abroad experience. It will grow you in numerous ways because it focuses on accompanying the people and learning from their lives. In addition to classes you will also spend two days a week going to praxis sites where you get to apply what you learn in the classroom to the real world. You will be in contact with those that may not have much to offer materialistically, but what they do have is a genuine form of love and sense of community that is truly rare. The creators and directors of Casa Bayanihan have done an amazing job tailoring their program. I couldn’t be happier and thankful for saying yes to this incredible experience.


Julia MichalskiJulia Michalski, University of San Francisco

Hello from the Philippines! My name is Julia Michalski. I am a sophomore at University of San Francisco, majoring in Biology and minoring in Neuroscience. Here at the Casa I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time. I love my praxis site San Damian, the generosity and compassion of the people is truly inspiring. I’m excited to see what the rest of the semester brings!




Olivia HolzumOlivia Holzum, Saint Louis University

Hi! I am a sophomore studying Public Health.  I came to the Philippines to learn about the culture and get to know the people living here.  My praxis site is San Damian Center, and I am looking forward to meeting members of the community there.  Since being here I have enjoyed getting to know the neighborhood and exploring our new home!




Katherine PantangcoKatherine Pantangco, University of San Francisco

I am a sophomore studying Sociology at the University of San Francisco. I chose to study with Casa Bayanihan for its alternative approach to studying abroad as it advocates for social change and cultural awareness. I look forward to exploring the Filipino way of life and the harsh realities that marginalized communities face. As a Filipina-American, I hope to better understand my heritage in a new and explorative way. My praxis site is Tahanang Walang Hagdanan (Home Without Stairs) where I have the opportunity to accompany persons with disabilities in a workplace. Mabuhay!


Sarah Stachnik

Sarah Stachik, University of San Francisco

Hello! I am a junior studying Architecture at the University of San Francisco. I have really enjoyed getting to know all the wonderful people in Casa Bayanihan, our neighborhood, and our praxis sites. I am looking forward to what will come in the next few months!


Cecille De CastroCecille De Castro, Ateneo de Naga University

Magandang Araw! I am Cecille O. De Castro, a 4th year BS Accountancy student in Ateneo de Naga University. My praxis site is in Lingap Pangkabataan Inc. I really feel lucky and blessed to be a part of the Casa Bayanihan program, where I am not only able to learn only about living in a cross-cultural community and walking with the people but more importantly, listening to that deeper voice of my soul that God is calling me upon. Great days are coming!


Lauren LumLauren Lum, Regis University

Hello, I'm a junior at Regis University in Denver, Colorado studying Peace and Social Justice Studies and Environmental Studies. I'm originally from Vacaville, California, a small town in Northern California. I'm excited to be in the Philippines and can’t wait to learn more about such a different culture! I especially am excited for the times we will be in house stays with both our Praxis sites and for the time in the fishing community called Calatagan. My Praxis community is Kapit Bisig which is a community of OFWs, or Overseas Filipino Workers, many have family members working abroad and I look forward to hearing more of their stories and playing with the children! This semester I hope to learn from my Filipino brothers and sisters and to engage fully in a different reality.   


  Karla CabangonKarla Cabangon, Ateneo de Naga University

Magandang araw po! I’m an 18-year old full-blooded Filipino from Bicol, a region located in the southern part of Luzon. Currently, I’m a third year BS Accountancy student in Ateneo de Naga University. Also, I am part of the first batch of Filipino students who were given this rare opportunity to study under Casa Bayanihan. So far, living with American students in a neighborhood that is totally different from where I grew up as well as accompanying my fellow Filipinos in our praxis sites have both been very good and unique learning experiences for me.


Alex GaynorAlex Gaynor, Boston College

Hello, po! I’m a junior at Boston College studying International Studies and Philosophy. My praxis site is Lingap Pangkabataan and I am really looking forward to engaging in the realities of the communities associated with the program and learning more about the way of life for many Filipinos. In Manila when I’m not at placement, I enjoy taking excessive amounts of photos, drinking tea, eating as much Filipino food as I can, exploring, and soaking up all of the knowledge that the Casa staff and fellow students have to offer.


Bea BetitoBea Betito, Ateneo de Naga University

Kumusta? I am one of the Filipinos given the chance to study with the American Students in the Casa Bayanihan Program. I am 18 years of age, a sophomore, taking up Bachelor of Arts and Secondary Education Major in English and I live in Naga City, Camarines Sur located in the southern part of Luzon. This program never fails to surprise every single day I spend here in Manila with my new American friends and the people in our praxis sites. Casa Bayanihan is truly a program that will let you go into a world full of surprises and lessons of life.


Meg O'NeillMeg O'Neill, Boston College

I am a junior at Boston College studying Philosophy and African and African Diaspora Studies. I hail from Buffalo, NY, also know as “Canada,” so I feel right home the tropical weather of the Philippines. All that’s missing is three feet of snow. My praxis site is Sitio Payong, a farming community of informal settlers in Metro Manila, and I am having a blast getting to know the Philippines and its inhabitants everywhere I go!


Steve GuraySteve Guray, Ateneo de Naga University

Magandang araw po! Originally from Bulan, Sorsogon, I am a Filipino and a Bikolano. Currently a senior student of Ateneo de Naga University under the Education Honors Program and taking Bachelor of Science – Bachelor of Secondary Education major in Biology Chemistry.

The idea of accompaniment and building a community of different students from North America and Philippines and the goal of knowing more my country excite and pushed me to apply for the program. In solidarity (solidaridad) and heroism (bayanihan), I am looking forward for a better version of my faith and community life after my Casa experience. For this semester I will be with the people of San Damian Center at Bagong Silang, Quezon City to share my skills there and at the same time to learn from the reality and stories of Filipinos from different walks of life.

Dios mabalos po! (God speed!)