Service Site: San Miguel High School in Tucson
University: University of Notre Dame
What do you do? As one of the LVs at San Miguel, I work in the Campus Ministry and College Counseling Offices. In campus ministry I coordinate our border immersion experiences called El Otro Lado and assist with some of the class retreats, namely the Freshman Retreat. I also lead Lasallian Youth, which is our main service group on campus. El Otro Lado, which means “the other side”, is an opportunity for San Miguel students and other Lasallian students from around the country to come to Tucson and learn more about the immigration issue through five day long immersion trips. My work in college counseling consists of aiding seniors with the college application process. Additionally, I work with the College Counselor to expose underclassmen to the college readiness process because we believe that the college process begins in the first year of high school. Aside from my work in these offices, I assist with the Senior Class Council and a mentoring program that involves our Freshman and Senior students.
What is the most important “thing,” do you think, that your students need from you? What do you do to try to provide this? Presence. That is the most important thing that my students and service site need from me. At dinner the other night one of the Brothers made mention of what he called “the ministry of presence” and that reminds me of why I am here. I can try and “help” my students and school but if I am simply going through the motions without being present to my students and co-workers then there is no point to the “help” that I am trying to render. I try to be present to both my students and co-workers by giving of my time generously yet intentionally. One way I try to be present to my students in college counseling is by continually reminding them that I am here if they want to go over their personal statements. During the immersion experiences, no matter how tired I may be after a long day, I endeavor to spend some time with the students to get to know them better. These evening moments after all of our activities and reflections for each day have been one of the best community building moments for San Miguel students on the immersions and for the visiting schools. One way I hope to be more fully present to the students is by attending a few more sporting and other afterschool events this year. I strongly believe that by being present to my students and colleagues I can share my experiences with them while also learning from their insights and experiences.
What have you discovered about poverty from your work? Something that my time as a Lasallian Volunteer has affirmed in me is the belief that one of the surest ways out of poverty is through education. I recently learned that Tucson is ranked the sixth poorest metropolitan area in the country. This information made me even more grateful that a school like San Miguel exists here in Tucson and I am able to play a small role in such a wonderful mission of providing an affordable Catholic Education to such an economically challenged area. A phrase that has recently gained much significance here at San Miguel are the words Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve. Even though a majority of our students come from challenging circumstances, they do not need to let themselves be limited by them. Rather, they can get the tools necessary (through taking advantage of their education) to come back and be the agents of change that Tucson and our world so desperately needs. In taking my students to different service projects, I try to get them to go beyond the feel good one gets from doing good to question why things are the way that they are and then look for ways that they can be a part of the solution.
Which of the core values (Faith, Community, Service) are most important to you? Why? Faith, Service and Community…these core values were highly emphasized on the application to become a Lasallian Volunteer. Now that I have lived these three principles in a very purposeful way during my time as a Lasallian Volunteer, they each hold a special meaning for me. If I had to choose the most important of the three values, I would say that in many ways, they are all very significant. For me, faith is an expression of one’s relationship with God. Community life has been one of the bed-rocks of my LV experience. Dinners and time with community allows me to step out of myself and leave any worries from my site behind. Living in community with the Brothers and my fellow volunteers has allowed me to grow in many ways while challenging me to take greater ownership of my faith. Community life and service are some of the most fundamental ways we can express this relationship with God. In some situations where my faith in a given situation is dwindling, simple moments in community become the fuel that reignites the fire of faith that leads me to continue serving. Though, all three core values are in many respects equally important, I think faith often times acts as the impetus that leads us to serve and directs us to seek community. Even though faith can serve as the beginning, it cannot stand on its own because its sustenance comes through community and service.
Why would you recommend the LV program to a college senior considering volunteering? Becoming a Lasallian Volunteer is by far one of the best decisions I made in my life thus far. If you are a senior in college considering post-grad service, my question for you would be, “why not Lasallian Volunteers?” The Lasallian Volunteers are an amazing group of people from diverse backgrounds and experiences, with one unifying identity, the desire to serve. Lasallian Volunteers has taught me that service can come in different forms, but the best kind of service is that which transforms you as you are doing the work that you do. I am not done growing or changing, but I can certainly say that my time as an LV has stretched me for the better. If you want to do work that allows you to touch and transform the minds and hearts of your students and clients then give Lasallian Volunteers a closer look. Look closer and make what I hope will be one of the best decisions of your life.
Live Jesus in Our Hearts, Forever!