Service Site: La Salle School in Albany, NY
University: Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock Borough, PA
What do you do?
I am a Recreation Coordinator for the boys who live in residence at the school.
What is the most important “thing,” do you think, that your students need from you? What do you do to try to provide this?
A variety of recreational activities coupled with a positive attitude. Being a Physical Education major, I know ‘rolling out the ball’ isn’t really an activity at all. Many of our kids have never been out of the urban environment, so why continually give them an activity like basketball? It’s whenever we do things like caving, hiking, camping, Frisbee golf, and fishing that they need exposure to, and they literally beg us to take them! Frustrations often arise, but displaying that positive outlook helps them realize that attitude is a choice and doesn’t have to be run by emotions.
Is there anything you have you discovered about poverty from your work?
Very much so. I think the thing I’ve discovered about poverty while working here is that it isn’t necessarily just a physical aspect of life. It’s easy to look at a person and say ‘They look healthy’ but knowing their history and background exposes the real ‘malnourishment’ that our boys are currently dealing with while at the school. The young men that come to La Salle are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually impoverished, and it’s our job to nurture those aspects of who they are.
Have you noticed any signs of success in your work? What are they?
Residential treatment is not a place of instant gratification, but that moment you begin to see positive behaviors from the kids is a feeling that cannot be matched. Certain kids have come from a background where nothing works out for them and they develop a negative outlook on life. A recent new employee and myself started playing hackie sack with the kids and the only real guideline is that while in the circle, only positive things can be said. After a few reminders in several circles, the kids began giving encouragement and constructive criticism, both in and out of the circle.
Why would you recommend the LV program to a college senior considering volunteering?
This program is so much more than just a term of service, which people may initially think it to be. Not only will it help you gain professional experience, but it helps you mature spiritually and socially. I can honestly say I’m learning more now than in my student teaching experience during college. These lessons and hardships are helping me change lives, and that’s the most rewarding part of this experience. The support system within the Lasallian Volunteers is an immense resource that can be accessed even after the experience, which is priceless moving forward in life. It truly is not just a service year, but a lifestyle that extends well beyond the two years most people volunteer.