In this month’s “Ministry of the Month,” the Midwest District is featured. The ministry is DeLaSalle High School of Minneapolis and the Lasallian Volunteers are John Schatz, 15-17, and Viviana Ortiz 16-18. John is a graduate of La Salle University and Viviana is a graduate of the University of Arizona.
WHAT IS DELASALLE HIGH SCHOOL? DeLaSalle High School opened in 1900 as the first Catholic high school in Minneapolis. Administered by the Christian Brothers since its inception, “De” has been co-educational since 1971-72. Over 15,000 men and women have graduated from DeLaSalle, which is still located on historic Nicollet Island, within walking distance of downtown Minneapolis. Today, DeLaSalle educates students from over 116 different Twin Cities grade schools, from as far away as 30 miles in each direction. Still the only traditional college prep Catholic high school within Minneapolis, De is also the most diverse private high school in Minnesota in terms of ethnicity, socio-economics, and family background.
HOW DID JOHN AND VIV BECOME LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS?
For John, it was the next step after he went to both La Salle College High School and La Salle University. He had been encouraged by another volunteer in the program to send in an application. He says, “Samantha Hyland, 14-16, recommended that I apply for the program. I sent in an application, and received a phone call describing what sounded like the most amazing position. I knew and loved all of the Brothers I had met in high school and college, and I loved the job description that was provided to me. Everything just made sense.” Viv is also a graduate of a Lasallian high school, but on the opposite side of the country, in Tucson, Arizona. She credits San Miguel High School and her experience at leadership opportunities with the District of San Francisco New Orleans for igniting her passion for post collegiate service. She says, “I decided to be a Lasallian Volunteer because I was involved in the SFNO District with various Young Lasallian events and I was encouraged to become a part of the program after graduation from the UA. The Lasallian charism has been a part of my life since I was in high school so I wanted to give back to the community that has supported me so much throughout the last 8 years.”
WHAT IS THE SERVICE THAT JOHN AND VIV PROVIDE?
Viv serves in the offices of Lasallian Ministry and Guidance. In Lasallian Ministry, she helps with liturgies and prayer services. In guidance, she serves as support for the counselors in guidance controlling student traffic in the office and updating the school’s scholarship bulletin boards. John serves in the Learning Specialist Office. The office has nearly 80 students on its caseload. Along with the Learning Specialist, he meets with a portion of these students every week individually to keep them on track academically and make sure they are given the support they need to succeed and fulfill their potential. John goes over their assignments with them, outlines their future assignments, and helps them study and understand material with which they are struggling.
HOW DO THESE VOLUNTEERS TOUCH MINDS AND HEARTS AT THEIR SERVICE SITE? John and Viv have a really unique situation where they live in a community that is attached to their service site. Their backyard is DeLaSalle’s athletic facilities and they are right in the heart of Minneapolis in one of the longest standing Catholic high school’s in the city. They recognize that their job is to become immersed in De’s culture and thus, really bond with their students. John says, “The students I work with brought their friends into my office or students I met in the library would come down and visit. I felt like I was providing a relaxing, safe environment for the kids and whether they realized that or not, they wanted to spend time with me.” Viv has had similar experiences with her students in campus ministry and guidance. She says, “I know I am making a difference when my 9th grade mentees feel comfortable enough to let me help them navigate through a hardship of their first year or when I get the chance to help senior students with their college applications and financial aid questions. It was a great feeling when I was informed that a senior student had received a scholarship for college, a scholarship I had given her the application to and encouraged her to apply for, that was definitely a sign of success.”
HOW HAS LIVING WITH THE DE LA SALLE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS IMPACTED VIV AND JOHN AS LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS? Both John and Viv spent significant time with Brothers during their high school and college years. Each volunteer was quick to credit the Brothers in their community for enhancing the volunteer experience they are currently having. Viviana says, “It’s great being able to share this experience with them and hear them share past experiences with us volunteers. Coming from a newer Lasallian high school, I love being able to spend time with them individually and having them tell me about the history of the Lasallian schools and Christian Brothers in the Minneapolis area, more specifically at De. It’s interesting to hear about how much the schools and the Brothers vocation have changed since they became brothers and started teaching. It has definitely been a different experience living with individuals who are about 60 years older than me, but they are all very wise and have given me a lot to learn from.” John agrees with Viv and says, “Out of all of the experiences I have had as a Lasallian Volunteer, living with the Christian Brothers has changed me the most. I am fortunate enough to live with some of the most compassionate, aware people I have ever met. The biggest change I have experienced is a desire to become a more positive person and to complain less. More importantly, I have role models who give me hope that such a change is possible.”
WHAT DO THE VOLUNTEERS IN THE 2016-2017 COHORT SAY TO COLLEGE SENIORS ABOUT LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS? John and Viv both recommend applying to Lasallian Volunteers to college seniors! They have both had tremendous experiences thus far and credit personal growth in their professional and spiritual lives. John says, “Practically and objectively, Lasallian Volunteers provides an opportunity to practice adulthood with training wheels. However, you get to serve in a full-time position and adjust to what is going to be the rest of your life in a safety net with multiple levels of support. Being part of the program speaks to both your competence and your character. Subjectively, it has been a learning and life giving experience. I love the work I do with my students. I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive experience for nearly two years in my faith, service, and community.” Viviana echoes this when she says, “The program offers you a lot of support both professionally and individually, which is really helpful when you are just starting off after college. You also meet so many individuals that are willing to help you grow and walk with you as you discern your vocation, not just those that are directly a part of the program, which is really reassuring to know you are never alone. It’s a great experience that pushes you to grow in three very different aspects.”