February 2015: Dan O’Connell

Service Site: Saint Raphael Academy in Pawtucket, RI

Dan O'Connell

Dan O’Connell

University: The Catholic University of America 

What do you do?

I’m a physical education teacher, tutor, assistant athletic director, girls varsity soccer assistant coach, Freshmen Class moderator, and after-school program coordinator

Have you noticed any signs of success in your work?

I witness signs of success on the faces of my students nearly every day. Whether it’s the moment that a student’s eyes light up after finally grasping the concept of an angle bisector during our fourth or fifth tutoring session, the tangible improvement in another student’s ability to bump, set, or spike a volleyball when just last week they might run from a moving ball in fear, the satisfaction on the faces of the Freshmen class officers upon planning their Freshmen-Sophomore semi-formal, or the palpable pride manifested in a beaming smile on the face of a soccer player who just netted her first varsity goal, my students experience successes large and small each day. These are successes that I am blessed as a Lasallian Volunteer to share in.

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


Coach O’Connell in the gym

Volunteering as an assistant coach for the Saint Ray’s girls’ varsity soccer team this Fall was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life, and a time when I knew I was making a difference. I learned that young athletes and young people in general respond to a teacher or coach’s behavior as much as their words, so I participated fully in every activity, drill, or sprint. I learned how to provide effective, honest feedback that inspired consistency and growth and watched as the team gelled more closely than any team I had ever been a part of. Further, I learned how to communicate my enthusiasm for a sport to the Lady Saints and watched them mirror that passion on the pitch and, more importantly, in the classroom. When our team, undefeated through 13 games, lost in the second round of the Rhode Island state tournament I watched a team of young ladies lose with grace. I experienced an entirely new sense of pride as a coach of that team, and am grateful to have impacted my community, if only in a small way.

Was there a moment where you felt accepted by your students?

As the second half of the school year progresses, I am beginning to feel an acute sense of trust between my students and me. On most days, students that I used to have to probe with “How are you today gentlemen?” and “Ladies, did anything exciting happen this weekend?” They feel more comfortable sharing that they’re excited for their basketball  game tonight or that they participated in an acting showcase this weekend before I even have to ask.  When a particularly gruff student exclaimed, “Mr. O guess how many detentions I’ve gotten this year! Three! This time last year I had 20!” I knew that their willingness to share their past shortcomings and current success was a sign of trust, and I shared with the student that I was proud of them. Lastly, when a stellar athlete that once excluded their peers who were less familiar with a sport or activity in PE class now patiently includes their classmates and shows them the ropes, I understand that they respect me and my expectations set forth for them, and are fulfilling their leadership potential. These small interactions challenge me to improve the relationships that I foster with Saint Ray’s students, and make me feel like an accepted member of the St. Ray’s community.

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

I would tell them that the Brothers are invaluable members of our community. Through not only their words but their actions, they inspire me to be the best LV, young Catholic, and young man that I can be. 

St. Joseph Community

St. Joseph Community

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

I would recommend the LV program for a few reasons. First, I am genuinely excited about going to work every day and that is a phenomenal feeling. Second, I face and overcome new challenges every day, something critical to my personal growth. Lastly, I feel supported by the LV network, whether by my Community or Site Director, LV Staff, or community members, I know that they have my back.

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

I would recommend a contribution from a prospective donor because of the tangible, positive impact that this program creates in the communities in which LV’s serve, and in the hearts and minds of LV’s like me—someone who is experiencing the most fulfilling opportunity of my life. 

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

Aside from my involvement in the lives of lifelong friends and mentors that I have made this year, I will search for Lasallian communities wherever I am, and be an active participant in those communities. I would also like to be an active participant in the LVs Run for years to come!

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