Amy Kalina

Site: The San Miguel School – Providence, RI

College: Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

What do you do?

At San Miguel, I assist in the development office with PR, communications, and publications. I also coordinate the after-school programs, help with special events and outreach, and co-teach the 5th grade literacy class.

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

I still remember a conversation I had with one of my professors during my senior year of college. He told me that, whatever I decided to do with my life, he hoped that I chose “something meaningful.” At the time, I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but I wanted to find out. That’s what directed me to long-term service. Even after so many years of classroom education, I felt as though I had a lot more to learn—about the world around me and about myself. The Lasallian Volunteer program offered an opportunity to pursue the “bigger picture,” to witness firsthand a way of life I was fortunate enough to be sheltered from as I was growing up, and to discover more about myself, my gifts, and my personal limitations in the process.

Had someone told me a few years ago that, nearly two years out of college, I would be working at an all-boys middle school in Providence, RI, I never would have believed them. Now, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Just as De La Salle’s journey was a pattern of one commitment leading to another, so has my own journey carried me to this little school in Rhode Island, where my life has been transformed and given new direction. Only in looking back over the past two years can I clearly see how ‘providential’ each step of my journey has been, helping me to realize hopes that I never actually knew that I had. It certainly hasn’t been easy; these two years have come with struggles and sacrifices, exhaustion and tears. But I can say, without a doubt, that I’m doing “something meaningful,” and that makes everything else worthwhile.

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

I really believe that it all comes down to love. At San Miguel, that love is both visible and tangible, creating a learning environment that is truly unique where students are cared for and nurtured in a safe school community. What the students need from us differs from day to day, from child to child. Whether they need kind words of encouragement, a warm hug, a simple smile, or just someone to acknowledge their presence, we can reach out to make them feel like they can be and do more than they ever believed they could—or that their circumstances would have otherwise suggested. Kids just need to be given a chance. They need someone in their corner cheering them on, someone who they trust and they know will never give up on them. And that all comes from unconditional love.

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

I see signs of success in the little miracles I witness every day, not necessarily ones directly attributed to my own personal efforts, but to the collective efforts of the San Miguel community. Academic and behavior grades on a student’s report card may measure his in-school progress, but it is our job to prepare him for a time when we’re no longer there to guide him to do the right thing. When I hear stories about our students when they are out in their communities, times when they aren’t under their teachers’ watchful eyes but yet still exhibiting the traits of a “Miguel Man,” I see that as a tremendous testimony to our work.

Bro. Michael Reis always says that when you succeed at something, you should take time to thank and remember all of those who came before you who paved that road to triumph. Even when I don’t see any evidence that my work is making a difference, I find comfort in thinking that, hopefully, my efforts today are paving the way for someone else’s breakthrough down the road.

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

What sets the LV program apart from other programs is its network of support. Even though we’re small, there is great strength in our connection to the greater Lasallian world. The Brothers are a source of support, encouragement, and wisdom, and the experience of living in community with them has made me a stronger person. Leaving home to become a full-time volunteer can be a scary, intimidating experience, but the LV program helps you every step of the way, providing support and making sure that your service experience is beneficial to the site as well as to you as a volunteer. The Lasallian Volunteers make up their own little family, one that I know I’ll belong to even after I’m done with the program, and that has helped to make my experience all the more powerful.


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