Summer 2014: Dana Cook

Service Site: Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn, NY

Dana Cook tutoring a student

Dana Cook tutoring a student

College: St. Mary’s College of California.

What do you do?

I serve primarily as a tutor during the day, offering students a range of educational support, including subject enrichment, remedial assistance, and skills development. After school, I work in-house with the young scholars of La Salle Hall, our boys’ dormitory, on all levels of mathematics. When I am not working one-on-one with students, I am assisting the Campus Ministry department in conducting day retreats throughout the year.

Why did you choose to become a Lasallian Volunteer? 

As a student of Sociology, I have always been deeply interested in social justice. I believe that education is one of the most powerful tools in realizing equality. That being said, I know firsthand that this tool can be a challenging one to utilize, as the educational playing field is not always on level ground.

Growing up, I always took longer than others to complete my schoolwork. After struggling with the increased workload of secondary school, my mother fought to have me tested and accommodated for a learning disability. My parents also hired a private tutor to help me learn various techniques to overcome these barriers.

I was extremely fortunate that my family could provide me with this necessary support. Unfortunately, not all students have access to the same educational resources. Thus, in becoming a Lasallian Volunteer, my goal was to help level the playing field. At Loughlin, I try to help out in whatever way I can, be it through educational support or positive reinforcement. I let my students know that I am here to serve them: their success is my success.

What is the most important “thing,” do you think, that your students need from you? What do you do to try to provide this?

At first, I thought that my students needed help from me with their schoolwork—after all, I came here to be a tutor! However, for the first few months, very few students were coming in to see me. I was pretty discouraged, and I questioned whether my presence at Loughlin was even making a difference.

Then I realized my oversight: I was doing what I thought the students needed. However, they did not need me to be just a tutor—they needed me to be me. They wanted someone to listen to them, to check in with them, and to just be real with them. I moved my tutoring space into an open section of the library, where anyone can walk over and check in. I try to reach out more to students and simply be there as a person who is interested in their lives and successes at Loughlin.

Now, I have students stopping in to see me on a daily basis, some of whom I have never even met. Word of mouth is a powerful thing in high school! Sometimes my students really do need some help, but oftentimes I find that they just need a little encouragement. I am here to show them that I am invested in their success and remind them that they are capable of facing any challenge. Some days are still slower than others, but I hope that my second year of service will be even more fruitful.

If you could project ahead a few years and look back to now, how do you think your experiences with those you serve and with the Brothers will have changed you?

My experiences in community and at Bishop Loughlin have been incredibly enriching. The individuals who have come into my life this year, community members, students, and colleagues alike, have challenged me to grow in ways that I did not foresee. I feel humbled by this amazing opportunity to immerse myself in such a unique environment particularly in community life.

If someone had told me five years ago that upon completing college I would be living in a    religious community, I would not have believed him. Now, I would not trade it for anything! I often joke that we should have a show on public access cable about life in community. For us, that includes two Brothers, two volunteers, a New York City police officer, a dog, a cat, six fish, two turtles, and an assortment of fowl, all living together inside a haunted house. Our eclectic community has colored and enriched so many aspects of my life. I have countless fond memories of spirited discussions and heartfelt reflections shared around the dinner table. My time here in Brooklyn has changed me in so many ways; I cannot imagine what my life would have looked like otherwise.

Why would you recommend the LV program to a college senior considering volunteering?

The LV program is a great way to transition from college into the “real world.” After graduation, a lot of my friends dispersed around the country, either going back to their hometowns or getting jobs in other cities. After being a student my whole life, graduation was a stressful and confusing time: I was about to venture into uncharted territory.

Not only did the LV program provide me with an opportunity to gain experience in a professional setting, it also helped me figure out how to, well, live after college—no dorm life, no cafeteria food, and no running to class in my pajamas. I learned how to budget my stipend, live cooperatively with others, keep up with my household chores, and cook a decent meal (without the step “add water and microwave”).

Perhaps the best part about joining the LV program is the opportunity it provides us to grow; every evening when I get home, instead of vegging out in front of the television (like I want to most days), I share in community time with my housemates. We swap stories of our day and provide each other comfort and guidance. Our variety of experiences and understandings has truly helped me to develop, both personally and professionally.


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