BISMARCK, ND — It didn’t matter that three University of Mary Harold Schafer Emerging Leaders Academy (ELA) students in the Liffrig Family School of Education and Behavioral Sciences had never been to Peru. Once their classmate, Bismarck’s Jackie Ortega, a criminal justice major, returned from University of Mary’s study abroad semester in Arequipa, Peru, to share what she had learned, it was as if they personally knew each of the young children that lived there and the challenges they faced.

Catherine Mahrer (left) and Sarah Maslow (right) help coordinate 5K Fundraiser

Catherine Mahrer (left) and Sarah Maslow (right) help coordinate 5K Fundraiser

“Jackie spoke to our ELA class and showed us pictures — I didn’t realize that so many people in this area don’t have running water or bathrooms,” said Sarah Maslow, a junior criminal justice major from Burnsville, MN. “The poverty stricken area is full of tin roof homes that are run-down. Right now their San Juan de Apostol School is the only place where they have basic amenities and is the children’s only hope for survival and learning.”

That is why Maslow, Catherine Mahrer, a math education major and Mariah Sondrol, a junior from Turtle Lake, ND, triple majoring in elementary education, social education and childhood education, are spearheading a fundraiser event with around 20 of their ELA classmates to raise money for enhancing the San Juan Apostol school. People are encouraged to dress up in their favorite superhero costume and take part in the 5K walk or run this Saturday, April 16, 10:30 a.m. at Cottonwood Park. Cost for participating is $25 per person, $20 for a group of five or more and children ages eight and under are free, with all the proceeds going to improving the infrastructure of the school and books. Donations can be done online at Businesses wishing to be corporate sponsors can contact Registration can be done online in advance at or on-site the morning of the event at 9 a.m. However, the first 100 people to register will receive a free event t-shirt and a raffle drawing will be held at noon following the race.

“Our goal is $15 to $20,000,” said Mahrer, a junior from Mandan, ND. “The San Juan de Apostol school needs $40,000, but if we can raise our goal it will definitely be a great start for the school. I didn’t realize how poverty stricken this area was. We all want these kids to have a future.”

The lack of adequate educational opportunities is one of the major problems faced by new communities in the Arequipa region at different levels of educational. San Juan Apostol school provides educational services to children from pre-school through the secondary level. There are no paved roads to the school and medical services are over 3 miles away. Many families in the area own nothing except the tin roofs or tin doors to their homes. They carry those around with them if their family is displaced or forced to move.

A year ago, Both Maslow and Mahrer studied at the University of Mary’s Rome campus during the spring semester. Next year, they hope to travel to Arequipa, Peru, to do the same and perhaps see for themselves the difference they and their classmates are making in the lives of school children with the help of this fundraiser.