Service Site: La Salle Academy, Philadelphia, PA
University: Lewis University
What do you do?
As is the case with many LV’s, I tend to do a little bit of everything around school. I am the gym teacher at La Salle, but I have done everything from replacing lights in school, to preparing school lunches, and filling in for classroom teachers who are out for the day.
Why did you choose to become a Lasallian Volunteer? Have your hopes about the Program been realized?
I chose to become a Lasallian Volunteer because of the work volunteers do and the areas/cities in which they are placed. I believe in the power of presence and solidarity. Volunteers are not only placed at schools or agencies, but in communities. Many of which are near where their students/clients are living. Volunteers have the opportunity to be a presence in many neighborhoods that are in need of more positive young people. They also stand in solidarity with teachers/social workers, Brothers, families and students each facing different struggles. The LV program gave me the opportunity to participate in this life-giving work right out of college.
What is the most challenging obstacle that your students face? How do your school and your own outreach try to empower them to overcome this obstacle?
Working with grade school students I have seen that all young people have several obstacles they must face on a daily basis. It sounds funny because I was graduating eighth grade only nine years ago, but the world today is even faster and weirder than when I was growing up. Our students face the normal “stressors” that come with being a kid (fitting in, good grades, crazy parents, getting into a good high school etc…). However, students coming from low-income households or struggling with poverty must endure other more “adult” obstacles as well. These include issues like: uncertain living conditions, one or no parents in a child’s life, or addiction affecting someone in the household. Really the major obstacle challenging most, not all of our students, is a lack of structure in their lives. La Salle Academy provides that structure. Students know where to be and what is expected of them from eight to five, Monday through Friday for eleven months of the year. The environment created at La Salle allows students to know they are cared for and provides them with the structure/skills to continue on in their education.
Have you noticed any signs of success in your work? What are they?
There are successes every week, however at times they look different or more subtle than what I would like to see or would expect. I do a lot of work with my gym classes in trying to avoid and work through arguments in the schoolyard. I really consider it a success when students are able to work through arguments on their own. However, my greatest success and lasting legacy at La Salle is when the seventh grade teacher and I coached the boys’ basketball team to the semi-finals this past season. It is always successful day when fourth graders avoid arguing over knockout during recess.
Why would you recommend the LV program to a college senior considering volunteering?
I would recommend this program to a senior because of the people you will meet through the LV program. I have forged relationships with volunteers, teachers, Brothers, students and their families. People I would never have been able to meet outside of this program, people with amazing stories. I have made a few stories of my own over the past two years as well. Volunteers receive great job experience, a network of professional and spiritual support, room and board, you get to travel across our great country and some even get a ticket to grad school; however it is the relationships made with people in the Lasallian community that make this program a worthwhile risk.
Why would you recommend a contribution to the LV Program from a prospective donor?
These past two years as an LV, I have noticed more than ever the power of money in our world. It seems that even programs and institutions serving the neediest in society cannot function without the proper funding. That being said, the Lasallian Volunteers program would not exist without the generous contributions of people who donate and support us. There have been countless trailblazers who have paved the way for the growth of the Lasallian Volunteers. Many lives are changed by this great program. Volunteers, teachers, Christian Brothers, and the students/clients volunteers come into contact with are only a few of the people whose lives have been impacted by LV’s. Job skills are learned, growth is experienced, relationships are made, and true life lessons are shared through this program. True education is happening. If able to contribute in some way, why would a person not want to be a part of this program?