December 2012: Jennifer Coe

Service Site: Martin de Porres Casa de la Salle

University: University of Notre Dame, B.A. in Psychology

What do you do?
I tell my students that as their case manager, my job is to get on their case! Joking aside, that actually sums up my duties quite well, and no day is ever the same as a result. Casa de le Salle is a residential school, and there are three sets of staff – educational, residential, and social services – that work to keep our kids in school and to prepare them for responsible adulthood. I try to make communication among the three branches cohesive by attentively interacting with the students whenever I can. If Timmy was sleeping in his first class, defiant in his second, and quiet at lunch, I talk to his social worker and let his floor supervisor know so we can figure out what is going on and brainstorm how to help him. At least weekly I support the teachers and aides in the classroom as they work to focus and engage our students. Sometimes I take students to medical appointments or for evaluations at the hospital. I also help the social workers communicate with the parents and take part in milieu counseling.

Jennifer helping out in an English class

What is the most important “thing,” do you think, that your students need from you?  What do you do to try to provide this?
The most important thing I could give my students is hope – they need someone who will never give up. In every moment of every day, never giving up in a student shows that he is a person of worth; that there is hope that he can change. Our students have had adults in their lives say to them in words or attitude, “you’re dumb, you’re a delinquent, you’ll never get anywhere.” When we help them refocus in class, when we discreetly remind them to pull up their pants, when we follow-up about their struggles in a genuine way, these actions reinforce that we believe that they are more than what the world assumes they are. When we treat each of them as an individual we respect, not a crazy kid past the point of no return, their hearts open to our efforts to help them.

Which of the core values (Faith, Community, Service) are most important to you?  Why?

Jennifer with a Martin De Porres teacher

Ave Crux, Spes Unica, “Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope.” As my volunteering year progresses, I’ve felt a strong and growing need to turn to the image of Christ crucified in prayer. I need hope to hope for my students. I need that ultimate example of self-sacrificial love to inspire me to give a little more in the moments when I want to hold back. Hope is the most important thing I can give my students, and looking to the Lord helps grow my capacity for hope.

Give an example of a time when you knew you were making a difference.Good relationships, with this population, build from both the good and the bad interactions. If a student takes time to be upset with you and work out his emotions that means you’re building a relationship and making a difference. One student approached me after Science, accusing me of not understanding his struggles in class and favoring the teacher’s pet. That confrontation means that he trusted me enough to share his frustration, instead of taking it out in an immature or inappropriate way. I mattered enough to him that it was worth his trouble to approach me about his problems with me.

The community gathers for a Fall Celebration

What would you say to a friend from home who questioned why you chose to live with the Brothers?
I am the kind of person who needs people to go home to, who thrives in a family setting. I chose to be a Lasallian Volunteer precisely because of the type of family setting it could provide. I get to pray and eat dinner daily with Brothers who have years of experience working with students like mine, and who have dedicated their lives to service. I am so thankful for the blessing of community now because my Brothers and fellow volunteer in Freeport challenge me intellectually, our consistency of prayer anchors me, and I have the opportunity to put others’ needs before mine in a consistent way. Best of all, I have four people to pester with my tragically corny jokes and constant need for attention!

Sign Up for
Our Newsletter