May 2014: Chelsea Stevenson

Chelsea Stevenson

Chelsea at LV Midyear Retreat

Service Site: John Paul II Academy in Racine, Wisconsin

College: St. Mary’s College of California.

What do you do?

Every day I  help to bring new technology into the classrooms of my school. I cart around Ipads and Chrome Books into the different grades and offer support to the teachers. When I’m not in a class I’m researching new apps, creating and editing school videos, maintaining our blog, or helping around the office. I monitor the lunch hour as well, which means opening a lot of milk cartons or Gogurts. After lunch I watch the kids on the playground, it’s my favorite part of the day when I’m not being mobbed by six kindergartners fighting over soccer balls or jump rope etiquette.

What has been your biggest disappointment in your volunteer service?  

I am extremely frustrated by my lack of experience in education. While I am not actually teaching a class myself, I am often put in an educator role explaining different concepts or proper handling of our technology at school. I am constantly mediating arguments or trying to navigate playground accidents. I think I’ve improved over time but often I feel as if I have no idea what the right, or wrong, way to approach a student is. I worry that I’m affecting my kids negatively or unconsciously encouraging the wrong kind of behavior.I know I can’t berate myself for not having the training–I didn’t exactly know what I planned to do after I graduated–but I still wish I had more experience with it all. I’m fortunate to have an entire staff to take notes from, and in the meantime I’m doing my best to serve these kids.

Chelsea helping a preschooler with her headphones

Chelsea helping a preschooler with her headphones

Give an example of a time when you knew you were making a difference.

So there are three Isabella’s in the first grade class at my school (I blame Twilight), and it took me a month or two to sort them all out. One day while I was doing playground duty one of the Isabella’s came up to me; she was upset, I could see her moping around the blacktop not playing with the other students and hanging her head. She started to cling and I asked her what was the matter. Apparently she’d tried to give a handmade card to another Isabella but this other Isabella rejected it: she walked right over to a trash can and threw it in. The current Isabella was distraught, what had she done wrong? How had Isabella offended Isabella?

The relationships of young children are the most baffling things I have encountered during my service. I used to think they were simple, but of course they’re as tangled and complicated as a telenovela. I didn’t want to upset her more, so I explained to Isabella that she needed to voice these feelings in a civil way to the other Isabella and let her know how much throwing that card away hurt her. She was very reluctant, but I told her it was the only way she’d get any answers. I cut her loose afterwards to run off and deal with a scraped knee.

The next day in the lunchroom, while I was prowling the tables, cajoling students into eating their food, and opening milks,  I came across the two Isabella’s sitting next to each other. The first Isabella jumped out of her seat and grabbed me, “You changed my life! You changed my life!” she kept saying. I had no idea what she was talking about.

“I did what you said and now we’re friends,” Isabella explained while the other Isabella giggled over her broccoli. I laughed and told her I was happy to hear it but she had to sit back down and finish lunch. “Okay,” she nodded solemnly, then she stuck her finger at me, “but never forget you changed my life.”

What would you say to a friend from home who questioned why you chose to live with the Brothers?

I’m used to living in a community, especially one that’s faith-based, and I was really eager to work at a school. I’ve never lived in a home like Casa Benedicta before, but I wasn’t going to reject it before I had enough time to judge for myself what it was like.

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There are the obvious benefits: paid housing and amenities, the chance to build a community in your new house and state, a possible scholarship, or the opportunity to serve others. The less obvious benefits come from the personal experience, however. The people you meet, the families you become a part of, the new culture you can immerse yourself in. I can’t say with certainty what exactly this program can bring to future volunteers, but I can say that the way it changes you is in the people you serve and the friends you make.

Why would you recommend a contribution to the LV Program from a prospective donor?

Because I can honestly say that any money we receive will be going towards making our program better. I know I can only express how much of a difference a volunteer can be, but if you could talk to the people we work with and the communities we live in, it’s obvious how much can be done and how much more we still need to do. A contribution to the LV’s is not a gift or payoff for us as much as it is an investment for our service.

How would you like to continue your involvement with the Lasallian family after your time with the Lasallian Volunteers?

I’d be happy to recruit for the LV’s, and of course I want to keep in contact with the friends I’ve made here. I really hope I can be a resource after my time here, even if I’m no longer directly involved in the program.

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