Joe Whearty

Site: De La Salle North Catholic High School – Portland, OR

College: University of California, Santa Cruz

What do you do?

  • Campus minister in charge of organizing retreats, masses and prayer services.
  • Gym teacher
  • Corporate internship driver
  • Study Hall proctor/tutor
  • Varsity Golf coach

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

I was very active with Lasallian Youth when I was in high school and established a very strong relationship with the mission of the De La Salle Christian Brothers. The coordinator there, Brother Michael Sanderl, became very influential in my life, which I didn’t realize until I graduated and went onto a public university. I missed my connections to the Lasallian world, and one day during senior year when I was having lunch with Br. Michael, this topic came up. He suggested that I look into becoming a Lasallian Volunteer and meet Seth during one of the recruiting visits to St. Mary’s College. I was blown away by the presenters, and knew by the end of it that I was called to become a Lasallian Volunteer. Becoming a Lasallian Volunteer has become the life changing experience that I never expected. The people that I have met, from the fellow volunteers, to the Brothers that I live with, to the students that I serve, have all had a profound impact on my faith, spirituality, and my confidence in the human race.

What has been your biggest disappointment in your volunteer service? How has this affected you?

I was in charge of organizing and leading a retreat for our Juniors and on this retreat a lot of pain and suffering from the students past was revealed. To hear about the horror that such a large percentage of the students grew up with was overwhelming for me. The hardest part for me was to see the pain that was endured by these amazing kids, and feel like there was nothing that I could do to help them. Seeing the amount of strength that the kids have has rubbed off on me and has given me more personal strength during difficult situations of my own.

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

During this Junior retreat, one of the surprises that we arrange for the students is to have letters, which we have named ‘Palancas’,  from their parents and loved ones talking about how proud they are of the students for them to open. It is a really emotional time, and rarely is there a dry eye in the group. At the end of the Retreat, one of my group members gave me a Palanca that he had written for me in which he praised me for being such a great leader. He shared that he had difficulty with his father while growing up, and as a result he had real trouble finding an individual who could live up to his definition of a ‘real man’ until he met me. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life, and it is a letter that I will hold dear for the rest of my life.

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

I learned quickly that I have zero experience with what these students deal with outside of the classroom, and many of them have spent their whole lives being told what to do. Most of the time, taking a back seat and just listening to their problems is the best way to be supportive. Although they are only in high school, we have very intelligent students. Just being able to hear themselves talk about their problem(s) allows them to sort things out on their own rather then let the situation run out of control in their heads. The thing that I do is create a safe environment where they feel comfortable to share their problems.

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

It is hard to explain what I do or say to friends, especially college friends, that don’t understand the concepts behind the charism of the Christian Brothers and their service to others. I try to share with them how lucky I am with all of the blessings I have been granted in my life, and that in joining the Lasallian Volunteers I have found a way to give back and help those not as fortunate as myself. My service to my students however, doesn’t stop at the end of the school day. Living with the Brothers allows me to focus on why I am living in Portland: to touch the hearts of my students. If I were not living in community with the Brothers, I am positive that after only a week, I would see the students and my work at the school as just another job, and lose sight of why I joined the Lasallian Volunteers in the first place.

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

When I was first becoming a Lasallian Volunteer, I was doing it for myself. I wanted the connection to the Lasallian world again. When I arrived to Orientation however, I quickly found out that my work as a Lasallian Volunteer was also going to make a large impact on the people I was serving. The work that the Lasallian Volunteers do is never easy, but the sense of accomplishment that we feel from the relationships that we form make every late night and stress-filled moment worth it.

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

The Christian Brothers and Lasallian Volunteers focus their attention on touching the hearts of those that are the most overlooked by society today. It was just announced that one of our students was not only accepted to Stanford University and will be receiving a full ride scholarship, but also that the full ride scholarship will continue for as long as she chooses to pursue a higher education, including all the way to her doctorate degree. I feel, without a doubt in my mind, that she would never have had this life changing opportunity without the help of the Christian Brothers and Lasallian Volunteers. I have never met such an amazing group of students, and they have made just as large of an impact on me as I hope I have made on them. Joining the Lasallian Volunteers was the best decision I have ever made, and I intend to always be a part of this mission long after my service as a Lasallian Volunteer is complete.

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