Service Site: De La Salle Academy in Concord, CA
College: La Salle University
What do you do?
I serve as a co-teacher for 5th grade Mathematics, 5th and 6th grade Language Arts, and 5th and 6th grade Physical Education. As the year progresses, I will also be working with other ministries in our area, including De La Salle High School, to bring student tutors to our campus to work with the Academy students.
What is the most important “thing,” do you think, that your students need from you?
The most important thing that I can do for my students is to find out what makes them who they are. I can’t hope to actually help the young men I work with if I don’t know what they really need, and the only way I can do that is if I establish some relationship with them. They won’t be able to learn anything if they are upset, or frustrated, or tired, or hungry, or have to go to the bathroom—the list goes on. The important thing is that I can recognize when a particular student is “off” and take the time to talk with them and work to solve the problem.
That is one of the most beautiful things about De La Salle Academy. Since opening this August, the school has become a place where students feel comfortable expressing their needs. I work with a wonderful group of people who have striven to establish an environment of acceptance and support, and our 34 students have picked up on that.
I work to show my students that I’m getting to know them because I have their best interests at heart, and I really care about them. There are few things as meaningful in life as when someone asks how you are doing, and wants the honest answer. I hope that I have been able to do that for my students and that I can be a support system for them as the year goes on.
What is a way you have been changed by a relationship or an interaction you’ve had in your volunteer experience?
I have only been a Lasallian Volunteer and a part of the De La Salle community for a month, but I have already found myself changed tremendously by this experience. I have learned how to be patient—really patient. For the first two weeks of school, our building wasn’t finished, but the Community Youth Center in Concord was gracious enough to let us use their space so we could start our school year on time. We were all anxious to get into our building, but it was worth the wait—it’s a remarkable facility!
I learned how to adapt and how to roll with the punches, which is a necessity when working with fifth and sixth grade young men. I plan my lessons meticulously, and can say with confidence that none of my lessons went according to plan. I am quickly learning how to shift and readjust to keep the momentum going and not get frustrated when things “fall apart.”
Most importantly, I have learned how much the little things can mean to these young men. One student at the Academy wrote his own comic book and gave me a personal thank-you on the last page because I “inspired him” by telling him that he was a good artist. Another student brings a book for me to read every day during D.E.A.R. Time because I said I heard good things about one he was reading (and I am quickly falling in love with the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series). The interactions I have had with these young men have shown me how much a kind word or simple conversation can make an impact.
Share a story about how you saw the face of God in your students.
I see the face of God in my students every day. Don’t get me wrong, they are still growing boys, so they act up, talk out loud, ignore directions, fight, and so on (like I said, I’ve learned to roll with the punches). But, I would be remiss not to acknowledge the compassion and spirit of these young men. They really embody the idea of “Brotherhood” that we regularly refer to at the Academy.
There are a few students who are still grappling with the ideas of brotherhood, and what that means in regards to how we treat one another, but there are some who really get it. These students can be found cleaning up after others in the cafeteria, straightening the chairs after Assembly, helping up someone who fell at recess, or affirming others’ successes. These little displays of kindness are so special here because they are genuine. On Friday mornings, we acknowledge students for their good deeds throughout the week. But the young men here don’t do it for the praise (well, not all of them). They just want to make their community better for their fellow student and brother. It is an incredible thing to see people that young recognizing what it means to do something kind for someone else, and it really inspires me and keeps me motivated from day to day.
Why would you recommend the LV program to a college senior considering volunteering?
I could not recommend this program highly enough. In my first month, I have made so many connections and have learned so many lessons about how to be a better person. I still have a lot to learn, but this program provides the perfect opportunities for that. I am learning how to be the kind of teacher I truly want to be, and have the example of so many wonderful individuals to follow. I also have the privilege of working with students who continually surprise and inspire me with their drive and empathy.
I have been welcomed by my school community as well as my residential community at De La Salle High School. I have not discussed the Christian Brothers, but I could go on and on about the wonderful parts of living in community. I live with 5 dedicated and committed men who I can rely on for advice, and who have some of the best senses of humor.
On the whole, this program is allowing me the opportunity to really learn who I want to be, and the space to grow into that person. I have so many people that I look up to and want to learn from, and so much to offer in return to the students that I serve. I am only at the beginning of my service term, but I am so grateful for all this first month has brought me, and I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.