Site: De La Salle Elementary at Blessed Sacrament – Memphis, TN

College: Saint Mary’s College of California

What do you do?

I work in one of the libraries/computer room where I check out books and in the mornings kids come to use the computers and take Accelerated Reading tests. They also use a math facts program. In the afternoons I teach computer and art classes. Once school gets out, I am one of the people in charge with after school, which includes tutoring and finding creative ways to amuse the children.

Why did you choose to become a Lasallian Volunteer? Have your hopes about the Program been realized?

When my senior year came along I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I was tossing around many ideas and then in January I went to South Africa for a month long service trip. This trip was probably one of the most life changing trips I had ever been on. I saw many things and I learned many things about the world and myself while on this trip. When I was in Africa I promised myself that I was going to do something the next year that would allow me to help other people. Once I came back to the States I began looking at my options and found that as time went by I kept on coming back to becoming a Lasallian Volunteer. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was on my site visit committing to a year of service in Memphis, TN.

I think that my only hope coming into this year was to learn. I usually do not think much about the future and I had no clue what to expect so I did not form many hopes. I did have some fears, however. I feared being away from my family for so long and I feared not being able to handle it. Although it is always a struggle for me to be far away from my family, I have managed. I have started to form a family here and it wasn’t long before my fears of inadequacy turned out to be illegitimate. The truth is that as long as I put in my best effort, I am able to succeed. I may not be doing the best job but I am constantly learning and trying to improve. I still have a lot to learn and I have been placed in an environment that is supportive of my development and understanding which is great when I come across areas where I might lack knowledge or experience.

When I came into this program I may not have had many “hopes” other than learning. However, I can say that my year has gone far better than I could’ve anticipated. I have learned so much from the students. There were times of high stress especially at the beginning in the fall and I have managed to overcome these times. I have developed bonds and connections with my students that I could not have predicted and in the process I have learned so much about life. I have opened up my heart and let this experience consume me completely, and because of this I have learned indescribable lessons and have been touched in countless ways.

What is the most important “thing,” do you think, that your students/clients/guests need from you?  What do you do to try to provide this?

Marianne Williamson once stated:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Most of our children are afraid to let the light shine out of them. Many of my students have a fear of failing, or they already see themselves as failures. Some of them have confidence, but many of them do not. I think that as teachers we want to provide all of our children with an atmosphere in which they can become all that they want to be (they can manifest in the glory of God). To do this, I think all of my students really need support and positive attention—in other words they need love. A lot of our students lack self-confidence, this might be due to unstable home lives or it can be due to the fact they struggle with their academics (and many times both). I think that having someone there who believes in them and sees their potential is a very important thing. I am very positive with the children and try and focus on what they are doing right and how they are achieving. I strive to be positive with them because I strongly believe that is what they truly need. A lot of our students have a lot of potential but they need the confidence within themselves to let their lights shine. I think by giving them love and by showing them ways to shine (leading by example) we can create an atmosphere in which the children are more likely to thrive and succeed.

Have you noticed any signs of success in your work?  What are they?

I have noticed signs of success in my daily work. Sometimes the signs are small; for example, a child who is usually gloomy – smiling at you and opening up his heart. Other times the signs of success are academic improvement in a child. I feel like I am successful when children are proud to show me their grades— proof of their hard work. I feel like when they come to show me their success it is because they care about what I think of them. I think that they care because they know I care, and to me that is success. I felt success the night of the Christmas program when all of the kids I worked with excelled and did better than I possibly could have imagined. They stood in front of hundreds of people, with lines completely memorized and delivered them with passion, along with this they all sang their hearts out!

I feel successes almost every day. These little successes may seem like nothing or even minuscule but they each add up into something unexplainable and beautiful. These little successes make me proud of my students, and help me to realize the impact I have on them. It is because of these successes, that I know I will continue to do “good” by staying here in Memphis another year.

What would you say to one of your students/mothers/clients/guests who came to you discouraged about a particularly troubling problem?

First and foremost I think I would listen to them. Unless I felt obligated to give advice or they asked for it, I would try and keep my mouth shut. Many times when you are troubled you are seeking a friendly ear to hear your burdens. I find that sometimes when you start automatically spilling out advice a person may withdraw from you. However, if this student or person wanted my advice then I would try to tell them honestly and appropriately what I thought. I have a hard time answering this question, because I have no clue why the person would feel discouraged. My advice for them would change depending on their reason for discouragement or worry. I think that one thing I would tell them is to remember that things will get better and sometimes you just need to have a little faith and work a little harder. I would also probably find some a quote to mention to them. Quotes can be perfect to motivate you when you are having a hard time.

What would you say to a friend from home who questioned why you chose to live with the Brothers?

I would tell them honestly that at first I was wondering what it would be like, as well, but that the Brothers are just people. They are people from whom you can learn a lot. I would explain to them also that I believe that I have grown a lot during the past year due to my experiences of living with the brothers.

Why would you recommend the LV program to a college senior considering volunteering?

I think that volunteering is one of the most rewarding experiences. When you volunteer and keep your heart open it is an experience in which you learn so many unexpected things. Volunteering can be difficult and challenging but these challenges help you grow as a person. You may be helping someone else out but you are also enhancing your own life. It is often said that when you serve, the one who you are serving helps you out just as much or if not more then you help them, and I believe that to be true. In giving yourself completely to others you get so much in return.

Why would you recommend a contribution to the LV Program from a prospective donor?

Contributing to the LV Program is helping to build up the United States and the world. By supporting the LVs you are supporting their year of service and you are helping two groups of people: those who have recently graduated college and are trying to figure out what to do with their lives and how to better enhance the world as well as those they are serving.

You would be supporting people who will leave the year or two years of service and will have been forever changed. They will carry these experiences with them for the rest of their lives and hopefully use their experiences to make wise and moral chooses. They will continue to use the lessons they learned as an LV to better human society.

You are also helping the poor and neglected in our society. You are helping to provide them with a unique education and with much needed service. This is one of the most important things to do as a human – our duty is to help those who have less than us. It is a calling that is ingrained in all of us (even though many ignore it). For when we take care of our poor, when we provide a good education for our children, our society improves.