College of Idaho student undertakes Davis Project for Peace in Ecuador

College of Idaho junior Sophie Dresser will travel to South America this summer on a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant. Dresser, a Boise native and 2008 Borah High School graduate, will spend a month fighting poverty in Ecuador through her project, “The Working Boys Center: Providing Literacy Opportunity for Greater Peace.” Dresser’s project was one of 100 selected from the worldwide Davis United World College Scholars Program, funded by philanthropist Kathryn Davis.

“I feel really lucky that I was chosen and that our College participates in the Davis program,” Dresser said. “From everything I’ve seen and read, the Working Boys Center does a great job bringing people out of poverty, and I am looking forward to helping with that and seeing the process first-hand.”

Dresser, who is studying international political economy at C of I, arrives in Ecuador on May 23 and will stay through June 24. She chose the Working Boys Center after hearing the experiences of a family friend who worked there as a volunteer. She also was inspired by the experiences of C of I classmates Keats Conley and Casey Mattoon, who undertook a similar Davis Project for Peace in Egypt last summer.

“I think students who have the opportunity to do these projects learn a lot about themselves and the world,” Dresser said. “The experiences that Casey and Keats shared were so relatable to what we learn in the classroom, I think it really brought a lot back to the College and the students here.”

The Working Boys Center serves the families of more than 400 young boys who work as shoe shiners in the city of Quito. In many cases, the boys earn 70-85 percent of their total household income. The WBC provides these impoverished families with schooling, health care, food and social services. Thanks to the education and training the boys receive at the WBC, roughly 75 percent of graduates achieve higher-wage, full-time employment in the Quito workforce.

Dresser’s project will focus on resupplying the WBC with adequate books, cataloguing and preserving those books, supplying teachers with software programs and educational materials, building new chairs for the libraries and implementing an incentive-based reading program that will reward the children with the life-long gift of literacy. Dresser has partnered with The Shoeshine Fund for additional financial support, and she is looking for donations from local booksellers and businesses in an effort to provide the WBC with as many books as possible. To hear more about the project or to donate to the cause, contact Dresser at

The College of Idaho now has had a Davis Project for Peace funded in each of the last four years. C of I students previously completed projects in Malawi, Tanzania and Egypt. To learn more about Davis Projects for Peace, visit

Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. It has a century-old tradition of educating some of the most accomplished graduates in Idaho, including six Rhodes Scholars, three Marshall Scholars, and another ten Truman and Goldwater Scholars. The College is located on a beautiful campus in Caldwell, Idaho. Its distinctive PEAK curriculum challenges students to attain competencies in the four knowledge peaks of the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field, enabling them to graduate with an academic major and three minors in four years. For more information on The College of Idaho, visit

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