John Joyce

Service Site: De La Salle Blackfeet School on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Montana.

College: Latin American Studies in Geography at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY.

What do you do? I teach 6th and 7th grade Math, 7th and 8th grade Social Studies, and 8th grade Science.

Why did you choose to become a Lasallian Volunteer?  Have your hopes about the Program been realized?
I chose to become a Lasallian Volunteer for several reasons. First was the very practical reason of wanting to gain teaching experience to help me decide what I want to do in the future. Second was the desire to serve in some way after graduating college. It was important to get a change of pace from the intensely academic world of college but to do so in a way that focused on peace and justice in our world. And third was to do both of these in an environment that was somewhat familiar to me and provided the type of guidance that would support me along the way, all while exposing me to new experiences. Serving as a Lasallian Volunteer is a way to unite all of these desires. Having grown apart from institutionalized religion after leaving high school, I was initially hesitant to apply to apply to a Catholic service program. But my positive experiences with the Brothers—and their and the program’s openness to people from various backgrounds, including people in different places with respect to faith—won out and convinced me that serving in the program was a way to gain teaching experience, engage in some kind of service, and find the support and guidance that I will need to decide where I should begin heading in my life’s journey.

John teaches a 5th grader guitar

What have you discovered about poverty from your work?
Less of a discovery and more of a deeper understanding about poverty is that I am no diagnostician and that the characteristics of poverty are persistently diverse. I have spent my life living in environments of deep and intense power and privilege—elite, private schools, for the most part fairly racially homogeneous, and among people of a relatively privileged socio-economic class. To enter an environment different in these respects can be disorienting, as has been the case with me in moving to the Blackfeet Reservation. While it might at times be tempting to deal in generalities and reduce poverty to certain “rules” or universal features, it is important to maintain a complex and nuanced view with the understanding that poverty affects different people in different places in many different ways. In particular is the important reminder that poverty is not some abstract social structure, but a lived reality for the students (and families) at De La Salle. Keeping these understandings in mind has been one way I can begin to try to make sense of poverty where I serve and my position relative to the students who I work with.

John's community visits St Mary's Lake in Glacier National Park

How has your involvement with the Brothers affected you?
I attended a Brothers’ school (Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, PA) and it was there that I first met the Brothers and learned about the larger Lasallian world. They introduced me to the Lasallian charism and continue to be some of the most important inspirations to me in trying to become an effective teacher. The Brothers—and the larger Lasallian community—are a special group of individuals whose dedication to the rights and education of children is made manifest by the work they do in their many sites around the world. They have shown me, by example, what it means to make a lasting impact in a child’s life, and to do so in a way that attends to the mental, spiritual, and emotional needs of those they serve. I think that anybody interested in schooling—and more specifically the education of mind and spirit of children—should look to the history of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools as well as the current work of the Brothers. They continue this important work to this day and have inspired my fellow LVs and me to associate ourselves with them and work together towards peace and justice in our contemporary world.

John with his 7th Grade class

Why would you recommend the LV program to a college senior considering volunteering?
I would recommend the LV program to a college senior for various reasons. First is the opportunity to be directly engaged in important and meaningful work on a daily basis. The sites at which volunteers are placed are carefully selected in order to provide challenging yet supportive environments that teach both volunteers and those they serve. The LV staff continually impress me with their dedication to us and to those we serve, and, given my lack of experience working in education, their support is essential in making this year of service a successful one. One would be hard-pressed to find a similar program so attuned to the individual skills, situations, and sensibilities of the volunteers that also provides the support that the LV program does. It would also be difficult to meet such an eclectic and passionate group committed to similar goals of social justice in just any volunteer program. Particularly if one is interested in entering the education field, there are no better teachers than the Brothers and larger Lasallian community, who have been engaged in the education of mind and spirit for centuries. The demands of our world are countless and unyielding, and the LV program in the end provides a way for us to begin to think about and address some of them in a loving, supportive, and challenging way.

John with his fellow LVs at De La Salle Blackfeet


Sign Up for
Our Newsletter