Service Site: San Miguel Middle School Tulsa, OK
University: University of Nevada-Las Vegas
What do you do?
I teach 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Social Studies.
Was there a moment where you felt accepted by your community/staff/clients/students?
One of the most striking moments of my service year so far occurred during what San Miguel calls a “Learning Team Meeting” (our version of a parent teacher conference). The mother of one of our students looked me straight in the eyes and told me that she has sacrificed so much for her daughter and that all she wanted was a better life for her. Suddenly, tears started to roll down her face as she began to tell me that even though she hardly knew anything about me, she could never repay me for what I have done for her daughter. I asked her, what have I done? She responded, “you have given your life for my child, and I will always be grateful”. In that moment, I grabbed her hand, and we cried tears of joy. In that precious and most intimate interaction, I truly felt the love she had for her child. St. John Baptist De La Salle once said, that the greatest miracle we could do was to touch the hearts of those entrusted to our care. In the moment I shared with that grateful parent, I realized that my heart was the one being touched-because I am the one that has been entrusted to the care and service of the community of San Miguel Middle School.
Give an example of a time when you knew you were making a difference.
I love the Olympics. I love everything about it. Ever since I was a child, the Olympics have held magical status in my eyes. You can imagine, that with the Winter Olympics coming up in 2014, I have already introduced the Olympics to my students (most have never even heard of it). Besides introducing the official symbol of the Olympics (the 5 rings), I began to tell my students of its official motto-Stronger, Higher, Faster. As a class, we discussed the multiple meanings contained in those three words. One of my 8th graders confided in me, “Mr. Monroe, how can I be stronger, higher and faster? I’m not good, your tests are hard, and I’m just not smart”. I looked at him and said, “Who told you, you’re no good”?
He replied, “No one ever told me that I could be the best, all the other kids are smarter than me”. I said, “Don’t mind anyone else. Concentrate on your personal best. I believe in you.” On the next test he took, he wrote next to his name in big bold letters: I am Stronger, Higher, Faster. He scored a 100% on it. He came up to me the next day, and said in front of the class- “Mr. Monroe, I just want to say, you are the most inspiring teacher I have ever had, thank you!” Before I could reply, one student shouted out, “I know that’s right” and then the entire class started to cheer and clap.
How have you seen the face of God in your students?
One day, as the students were lining up to be dismissed, a student asked me for my blessing. I said, “really, why me? I’m not a priest!” He said, “I know you’re not, but you’re my teacher!” He put his backpack down and bowed his head. At that moment, a profound sense of gratitude and humility pervaded my heart. In the face of my student, I saw the face God. All his hopes and aspirations were expressed in the most profound way in his gesture of reverence. I truly believe in that moment, God came in the person of a child to ask for my own blessing.
What would you say to a friend from home who questioned why you chose to live with the Brothers?
Don’t knock it, until you try it! Living in intentional community with the brothers has been such an awesome and unique experience. The Brothers truly live up to their very names as Brothers—they are witnesses of our Charism and companions in our life journey.
Why would you recommend the LV program to a college senior considering volunteering?
Be radical! Be counter cultural! Don’t look for answers in the hottest fads or trends. As quick as something comes, as quick as it will go away. Set your heart on what is true and lasting-in service to others you find depth and meaning that you never felt before. The LV program is truly a chance of a lifetime, a chance to grow, mature and stand in solidarity with the people.
Why would you recommend a contribution to the LV Program from a prospective donor?
The motto of the Lasallians is “Signum Fidei” (Sign of Faith). Truly, the LV program is a “Sign of Faith”. Its volunteers, young people from across the nation, give up some of their most precious years to stand in solidarity with the poor and marginalized. The future belongs in the hands of the youth. The LV program equips and empowers its volunteers to turn the current world view on its head. It dares to say, that the poor and marginalized have every right not just to a better future, but to a life filled with dignity and purpose.
How would you like to continue your involvement with the Lasallian family after your time with the Lasallian Volunteers?
I would like to continue to live out the Lasallian Charism as a teacher. I am currently discerning the religious life and wherever I am called, my hope is that I can continue to serve and love others.