Luc Pierre-Louis has seen poverty up close – and he wants to end it.
An international relations and economics major, Pierre-Louis says he found the perfect outlet to fight poverty by signing up for a yearlong fellowship with RESULTS – a grassroots, non-profit group.
This past June, Pierre-Louis along with several other RESULTS fellows from FIU, headed to Washington D.C. for the RESULTS International Conference, which teaches participants how to reach out to politicians and how to advocate to end poverty. By the time the conference ended, the students knew they wanted to bring back what they’d learned to FIU.
This semester, they started an FIU chapter of RESULTS. Their goal is to help students understand that they have a voice and civic duties to fulfill.
“Sometimes we complain about things that we want done, but we don’t understand that we can take steps to remediate the issue,” says Pierre-Louis, now the president of the student organization. “It’s not just through voting. It doesn’t end there. It’s your right to elect them [representatives], but you should also be encouraged to meet with them. A big part of civic duty is just to follow up with your representatives, and that they are following through with the reasons you voted for them.”
For many of the RESULTS fellows, poverty is personal – whether they have lived it themselves or witnessed it among their friends.
Originally from Haiti, Pierre-Louis saw people living in dire economic conditions. And in Miami, he’s seen all kinds of poverty – from homeless people to full-time workers living below the poverty line.
“Fighting against poverty has always been in me,” Pierre-Louis explains.
In high school, Pierre-Louis volunteered with Ronald McDonald House Charities for a thanksgiving food drive. He knew it seemed small, but he also knew the people who lined up for a helping of food wouldn’t have eaten a Thanksgiving meal otherwise.
“We had different food stations so they could go and choose exactly what they wanted on their plate. That’s a choice they hadn’t had in so long,” he says. “They were shuffling around, laughing among each other and with us. When you hand them a plate, and they have a choice of what they can eat… you see their eyes light up. Even though we weren’t able to guarantee they wouldn’t struggle the rest of the year, just doing that for one day could give them renewed hope.”
According to Feeding America’s website, in 2014, 46.7 million Americans (14.8 percent) were in poverty. About 15 million were children under the age of 18 (21.1 percent).
RESULTS fellow and club member Jose Sirvensays FIU students may also be affected by poverty, struggling to feed themselves. Food pantries on campus and the Fostering Panther Pride office, which helps students struggling with homelessness, are just two of FIU’s initiatives to help students succeed despite adversity.
Now this new FIU club offers an opportunity for students to help and bring awareness.
“We think FIU does make a difference,” says Andrea Toledano, treasurer of the club. “There’s a lot of passion at FIU. I think it’s really significant for students to be involved in something this important.”
Being a Panther, Pierre-Louis adds, often proved a great conversation starter when meeting with South Florida government representatives. He discovered representatives such as alumna and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen ’75, MS ’87 have a connection to FIU – whether as alumni or community members.
The RESULTS FIU student organization is open to all students regardless of major, and will be led by several FIU students who are also RESULTS fellows. Pierre-Louis says there is only one qualification to be in the club: students must have a willingness to learn and a selfless dedication to the community.
Activities planned for club members include attending in-district meetings with their political representatives and learning how to coordinate meetings with these representatives. One of the club’s major goals is to write a letter as a group and send it to various newspaper editors as a way to raise awareness about poverty. The club’s student leaders also hope to inspire members to become RESULTS fellows, too.
“It’s wonderful what they are doing,” says the club’s faculty advisor and assistant professor of medicine Maryse Pedoussaut of the student leaders of the club. “They have a lot of work and studies already. They are taking from their time to help others. It’s beautiful. I wish everybody would be like that. I think it’s going to bring something very positive for them, for FIU, for Miami, and even for the United States.”
For more information about the student organization visit their Facebook page and for more information about RESULTS Educational Fund visit their website.